MASON, Ohio — As Aftab Pureval campaigns for Congress in southwest Ohio, he sometimes smilingly introduces himself as “a brown dude with a funny name.”

The Ohio native is the son of a Tibet-born mother and India-born father. He first upset the Cincinnati political order in 2016, winning the Hamilton County clerk of court’s post that had been in Republican hands for a century. Now the 35-year-old attorney-turned-politician wants to unseat veteran Republican Rep. Steve Chabot.

“He’s had his chance,” Pureval says of the 65-year-old Chabot. “It’s our time now.”

Defeating Chabot won’t be easy. He’s been a fixture on the Cincinnati-area political landscape for three decades and hasn’t had a tough race since congressional districts were redrawn after the 2010 census. Chabot won his 2016 race with 59 percent of the vote.

Their matchup is among dozens of House contests playing out in districts that have largely been afterthoughts in recent elections. It’s these kinds of races – beyond the 25 districts that elected a Republican member of Congress in 2016 despite Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump there – that could determine whether Democrats gain the 23 seats they need to retake the House.

Pureval is among the Democratic hopefuls looking to reclaim districts that span the nation’s small and midsize cities and their surrounding suburbs and small towns – much of it political territory where Democrats were swept away in Republicans’ 2010 midterm romp.

Democrats felt encouraged by the tight battle in last week’s congressional special election in Ohio. While Trump claimed victory for Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson, the race against Democrat Danny O’Connor was considered too close to call, with a recount possible. The two will have a rematch in November for the seat vacated by Republican Pat Tiberi, who won by 37 points two years ago.

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Democrats got a boost in a March special election in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb won a congressional district Trump carried by nearly 20 percentage points.

Pureval is among 60-plus names on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list of candidates the national party believes are its best shots to flip Republican seats. The list is a mix of Clinton-won districts and the next tier of targets. Beyond that list, there are several dozen additional districts the national party is eying.

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