The National Republican Congressional Committee will announce 13 new candidates who have achieved top honors within its "Young Guns" program today, more than doubling the list of GOP recruits who qualify for the highest level of fundraising and infrastructure support from the national party.
Among the new Young Guns that NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) will announce is Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, whose campaign in Wisconsin got a major boost Wednesday when 21-term Rep. David Obey (D) announced his retirement. Even before Obey's announcement, Duffy — a former cast member on MTV's "The Real World" reality series — had been earning increased national attention from party leaders, who are working to create the largest possible playing field and take advantage of what is expected to be a very good national environment for the GOP this fall.
"The success of these candidates is testament to Americans' frustration with an out-of-touch Democrat majority," Sessions said in a statement that will be released today. "Our Young Guns' ability to build formidable campaigns sends a loud and clear message to Democrats that they will be held accountable for their unpopular partisan agenda in November."
But a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the party looks forward to educating voters more about these top recruits.
"As a growing number of the NRCC Young Guns have already been learning the hard way, the more voters get to know about them, the less there is to like," DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said.
The Young Guns system ranks candidates in three levels: "On the Radar," "Contender" and, finally, "Young Guns." Candidates are named to the program by meeting individualized benchmarks set by the committee, which include developing grass-roots support, fundraising and creating a media plan. Those benchmarks become higher and more stringent with each level of the program.
Late last month, the committee announced the addition of 40 more recruits to the program. After today's announcement the NRCC will have 23 Young Guns, 27 Contenders and 65 On the Radar candidates.
Not all of the candidates that the NRCC is promoting have clear shots at their party's nomination.
In Virginia's 2nd district, car dealer Scott Rigell is moving to the Young Gun list today. He is the leading contender in the crowded primary to decide who will face Rep. Glenn Nye (D). Among the other candidates he faces in the primary is Bert Mizusawa, a brigadier general in the Army Reserve who was named an On the Radar candidate late last month.
Mississippi state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R) is facing a June primary against former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross and former Fox News political commentator Angela McGlowan, who have hit the state Senator for being a career politician and being the choice of the Washington, D.C., establishment.
Nunnelee is becoming a Young Gun after being added to the NRCC program in late October and reaching Contender status in January. Other candidates being promoted today have risen through the program's ranks much more quickly.
Florida state Rep. David Rivera declared his candidacy in the open 25th district in late February and was added to the committee's program in early April after raising more than $700,000 in just over a month of fundraising. He was bumped up to Contender status about a week later.
Rivera is all but certain to face Joe Garcia, the 2008 Democratic nominee and formerly the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, in the general election. Garcia was added to the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program earlier this week.
The baker's dozen of new Young Guns also includes Indiana state Rep. Jackie Walorski, who becomes the second woman to reach the program's highest level after Montgomery, Ala., City Councilwoman Martha Roby. Roby was one of the original 10 Young Guns named in February. Walorski easily won a primary on Tuesday and will face two-term Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) in a once Republican-leaning district that the GOP is hoping to put back in play this cycle after losing it in 2006. Walorski was moved to Contender status in late April.
Two other newly named Young Guns who wrapped up their respective GOP nominations this week are heart surgeon Larry Bucshon, who is running in Indiana's open 8th district, and Jim Renacci, a businessman and former small-town mayor who will challenge Rep. John Boccieri (D) in Ohio's 16th district. Neither won his primary by an overly impressive margin Tuesday.
The other new Young Guns who will be named today are Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania's 11th district, Rick Berg in North Dakota's at-large district, Jon Barela in New Mexico's 1st district, Bill Flores in Texas' 17th district, Morgan Griffith in Virginia's 9th district and Richard Hanna in New York's 24th district.
The Young Guns program was originally created by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Reps. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) during the 2008 cycle. Last year, Sessions adopted it as one of the NRCC's marquee candidate-development tools.