Updated 11:45 a.m. ET, 12/9/2013
Washington (CNN) – Democratic governors and gubernatorial candidates are gathering in the nation's capital Monday to plot strategy ahead of next year's elections, when three dozen governorships are up for grabs.
Eleven Democratic governors, a governor-elect, and around a dozen candidates are taking part in the Democratic Governors Association annual meeting. On the agenda: Strategy sessions and policy panels during the day, with a holiday party to cap things off in the evening. The main mission is to give a walk-through to the incumbent governors and candidates running next year of what the DGA does and how it can help them.
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Also on the agenda: Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to be re-elected as DGA chairman.
Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe of Virginia is attending the day long meetings, and his victory last month over Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will be highlighted, with the DGA hoping to take the lessons learned and carry them forward to next year's contests.
Unlike the Senate, where Democrats will be defending 21 of the 35 seats up for grabs, the GOP controls 22 of the 36 governorships in next year's elections. And some of them are in states that President Barack Obama carried in both 2008 and 2012, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, Nevada and New Mexico.
"Democrats are on offense in 2014. We feel hugely confident to take back states that elected GOP governors in 2010," DGA Communications Director Danny Kanner told CNN.
Kanner added that McAuliffe's victory in Virginia and what issues he highlighted, such as jobs and schools, will be in their spotlight.
"We look forward to discussing those lessons," Kanner added.
Kanner predicted that the 2014 gubernatorial contests will mostly be about jobs and the economy, and said that the improving economy will only help Democratic governors and candidates. As for the ongoing political battle over the federal health care law, which could hurt Democrats up for re-election next year, Kanner said he thinks "voters, no matter what they feel about the law, will reward candidates and governors who are making it work for people who want high quality access to health care," adding that voters "will punish governors, in the name of right wing ideology, who have tried to sabotage the law for working people."
Among those attending today's meetings: Shumlin, Colorado Gov. and DGA Vice Chairman John Hickenlooper, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Democratic gubernatorial candidates from Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are also attending the confab.
The rival Republican Governors Association is also confident heading into 2014, and feels the economy will be their tailwind.
"Republican governors are in strong position for re-election in 2014. They have a clear record of results of growing jobs, reducing spending and cutting taxes. The economies in states with Republican governors have dramatically improved since 2010 and numerous polls show voters give credit to their governor for the success – not President Obama or Washington," RGA spokesman Jon Thompson told CNN.
And the RGA touted their financial advantage when it comes to fundraising.
"The DGA talks a big game, but reality shows they have raised half what the RGA has raised in 2013. Their limited resources will restrict which of their candidates they are able to support financially in key races in 2014," Thompson added.
While acknowledging being outspent, Kanner infers that the DGA spends its money more wisely.
"We spend our money better, we have better candidates, and we have a better message," Kanner added.