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10 Under-the-Radar Congressional Races to Watch

There are plenty of Democrats out there running on actual progressive issues, yet going all but unnoticed nationally. Here are a few worth watching.

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I’ve lived my version of the American dream. I was only able to do that because our government was there when I needed help. I realize that being a successful small business owner -- someone who employed 45 people, providing excellent wages and benefits -- I realize that this isn’t something I accomplished all on my own. Our government helped me get an education on Pell Grants and loans, I was able to go on and start these small businesses. I want to make sure economic opportunity exists for everybody in this country, not just the wealthy and the well-connected.

Zerban's wife is a teacher and they were both part of the Capitol protests against Scott Walker's anti-union bill. He endorses a “Medicare for All” single-payer system, noting that people don't start small businesses, in part, because of the sky-high costs of health insurance.

Ryan's selection to the presidential ticket may have helped put other Congressional races in play for the Democrats—it'd be pretty funny if he managed to lose his own, too.

7. NC-10: Democrat Patsy Keever vs Republican Patrick McHenry

North Carolina redistricted notorious Blue Dog Heath Shuler out of Congress(Shuler decided to step down after some of the more Democratic-leaning parts of his 11th district were sliced out and dropped into the neighboring 10th). But that might wind up helping Patsy Keever, who's facing off in the 10th against Patrick McHenry, described by Alex Pareene at Salon as “born to be cheerfully corrupt: He’s a product of the College Republicans, an organization that trains little Lee Atwaters, Karl Roves and Grover Norquists in the arts of scorched-earth campaigning and wholly irresponsible 'governing' on behalf of the monied interests that bought you your job.”

Keever, on the other hand, won a primary over more conservative Asheville mayor Terry Bellamy (who had the backing of the national party). The former schoolteacher is a sharp critic of the corporate education reform policy currently being celebrated at both party conventions, writing recently:

Vouchers and charter schools are not the answer. Defunding good programs and instituting unfunded mandates are not the answer. Adding more students to each classroom while decreasing support systems for teachers is not the answer.

Howie Klein notes that unlike Hayden Rogers, the anti-gay, anti-choice candidate (and Shuler's Chief of Staff) now running in the 11th district, Keever's getting little support from the Democratic party in the 10th. This, even though she strongly opposed North Carolina's anti-gay marriage Amendment One and was endorsed as pro-choice by NARAL. Interestingly, the DCCC named Rogers a “ Red to Blue” candidate, which gives him additional funding even though he's running to replace his old boss, a theoretical Democrat, while Keever's running against an honest-to-goodness Republican.

8. CA-39: Democrat Jay Chen vs Republican Ed Royce

Ed Royce is a longtime incumbent who's gotten more money from the financial sector than any other member of the California delegation; he's one of the few senior Republicans to actually join the Tea Party Caucus, has said that Arizona's “Papers, Please” anti-immigrant law should be the national standard, railed against multi-language ballots, and voted against extending the Voting Rights Act. But he's in a new district this time, and this one is 30 percent Asian-American and 30 percent Latino—creating a perfect opening for Jay Chen to take a crack at defeating him.

Chen still faces an uphill battle, but the school board member and Navy Reservist is running on the issues that matter—making education more accessible, better health care (he's ultimately a single-payer supporter) and financial regulation. He recorded Mandarin-language ads to urge the Chinese-American community to vote against Proposition 8, and even though the DCCC doesn't see fit to spend money on his race, he's determined to keep fighting.