NRCC adds 16 top targets

June 30, 2010

The National Republican Congressional Committee has picked 16 new candidates for the top tier of its “Young Guns” program, an initiative that aids promising House challengers with fundraising and infrastructure support and strategic advice.

The fresh additions to the NRCC’s list provide the most specific look yet at the House GOP’s highest-priority targets for the 2010 cycle. With the 16 additional names included, the “Young Guns” list includes a total of 39 candidates – exactly the number of seats Republicans would need to take back control of the House this November.

The new list includes many of the Republican Party’s top recruits to emerge from competitive primary fights, as well as one promising challenger locked in a competitive battle for his party’s nomination. The thickest concentration of new “Young Guns” is in Illinois, where candidates Bob Dold, in the 10th Congressional District; Adam Kinzinger, in the 11th; and Randy Hultgren, in the 14th, all made the cut.

Other blue-state Republicans – including former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, running for his old seat in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District; Corning Mayor Tom Reed, running for former Rep. Eric Massa’s vacant New York 29th District seat; and David Harmer, challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney in California’s 11th Congressional District — also won new backing from the committee.

Elsewhere, the NRCC rewarded some of its top recruits who are challenging well funded Democratic incumbents. In South Dakota, the committee elevated state Rep. Kristi Noem, who’s challenging Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin; former Nevada state Sen. Joe Heck, challenging Rep. Dina Titus, got the same treatment. West Virginia House candidate David McKinley, who escaped a bitter primary to run for outgoing Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan’s seat, and Virginia state Sen. Robert Hurt, the party recruit who won the GOP nomination in Rep. Tom Perriello’s district going away, were locked and loaded into the “Young Guns” list.

The sole candidate added to the top level of the program who hasn’t yet been nominated by Republican primary voters is Tennessee’s Stephen Fincher, the farmer and gospel singer running in a costly primary for retiring Democratic Rep. John Tanner’s open seat. While Fincher has already received support from national Republicans – NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions addressed a fundraiser for his campaign – he must contend with two well financed primary opponents, physician Ron Kirkland and Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn Jr.

A Republican official explained the decision to put Fincher on the list: “No one forgets that Fincher got into the race against Tanner when nobody else would run.” Other candidates drew attention based on their strong fundraising performances and polling data – both public and internal – showing them strongly competitive with or even leading Democratic incumbents.

Also making the NRCC’s latest cut are Todd Young, the challenger for Indiana Rep. Baron Hill; Andy Barr, the GOP nominee in Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler’s distict; farm broadcaster Rick Crawford, running for outgoing Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry’s seat; home inspection business owner Keith Fimian, running against Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly; and South Carolina state Sen. and John Spratt challenger Mick Mulvaney.
The “Young Guns” program is just one election cycle old: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan launched it during the 2008 campaign. McCarthy is now the lawmaker charged with taking point on recruitment for the NRCC.

Notably, while there are now 39 candidates receiving full “Young Guns” support, not all of them are in districts currently held by Democrats. Bob Dold, one of the new additions, as well as Florida’s David Rivera, who was already enrolled, are competing to retain open seats already in GOP hands. That means the party would have to win all of the “Young Guns” seats, plus a few more, in order to flip Congress’s lower chamber.

Several Republicans competing for vulnerable seats did not get the “Young Guns” promotion. North Carolina House candidate Harold Johnson, for example, whom House Republican leaders backed in a primary for Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell’s seat, has not cleared the bar yet. Neither has Idaho state Rep. Raul Labrador, who won an upset victory in a primary for freshman Democrat Walt Minnick’s seat over an opponent favored by the NRCC.

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