National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions tapped four freshmen to serve as regional directors for the 2012 election cycle. Freshman Reps. Jeff Denham (Calif.), Kristi Noem (S.D.), Mike Pompeo (Kan.) and Michael Grimm (N.Y.) will join eight more senior Members to serve on a 12-Member panel of regional directors for the NRCC, Roll Call has learned.
Sessions is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday, but the Texas Republican provided a statement to Roll Call that the addition of the four new Members will bring “diverse experiences and skills to build even stronger support for our Republican conference.”
Sessions’ announcement is part of a growing effort for GOP leaders to promote their freshman colleagues, who make up one-third of the entire Republican Conference. Rep. Diane Black (Tenn.) was selected earlier this year to serve as an NRCC vice chairwoman, and Noem already holds an elected leadership post in the House.
“It shows the impact this class is having on the Republican Conference as well as the sharp focus on helping ensure our freshman members have the resources they need to make it through their first re-election,” Noem said of her selection to the NRCC post.
Rounding out the roster of 2012 regional chairmen are GOP Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.), Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Candice Miller (Mich.), John Fleming (La.), Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Geoff Davis (Ky.), Bill Shuster (Pa.) and Tom Graves (Ga.). Shuster and Davis were regional chairmen during the 2010 cycle, the first time the NRCC launched the program.
Sessions and Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.) launched the program in 2010 and broke the map into 10 regions. This year the map has expanded to 12 regions, and each chairman is responsible for serving as a liaison between the NRCC and incumbents campaigning throughout the country. Regional chairmen do not have to meet higher fundraising goals because of their leadership roles, an NRCC spokeswoman said, but they are responsible for helping to defend the Republicans’ 241-member Conference and particularly the 87 new freshmen who helped deliver the majority to the GOP.
While some in the freshman class have tried to eschew Washington politics, Rep. Ed Royce (Calif.), who is in charge of the regional operation, said the NRCC title is helpful because it tasks Members to focus on their home regions.
“Their ability to communicate throughout the states gives them a profile, which will assist them in terms of having a positive name ID back home,” Royce said in an interview. “It also helps them hone their experience in delivering a message and gives them an edge and an advantage in campaigning.”
Added Royce: “It’s a win-win for us. It assists them, but it can also help inspire other would-be candidates to come forward and run.”
Royce noted that Denham was an active campaigner for other GOP colleagues while he was vying to win California’s open 19th Congressional district last year. Other more senior campaign warriors were also selected as regional chairmen for the 2012 cycle. Coffman, who coasted to re-election last year with 66 percent, noted that he also helped campaign for colleagues throughout his home state of Colorado in 2010. Now, as a regional director for the 2012 cycle, Coffman is responsible for helping incumbents in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. Seven freshman lawmakers hail from those four Western states, and the area will be heavily contested on both sides and particularly among presidential candidates.
“I think my whole thing is to focus on folks in my region and encourage these members to aggressively move forward with raising money early to send the message that they’re serious candidates,” Coffman said, echoing a message handed down to Members by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during an off-campus Conference meeting Monday.
Boehner told freshmen Tuesday that he expected their March 31 filings with the Federal Election Commission would be strong. The Speaker told Members that he would be monitoring their reports closely, said a GOP aide with knowledge of the meeting.
“I know you’re also being asked to raise funds for the dinner, but your campaign accounts in the first and second quarter go a long way in determining your opposition,” Boehner told Members, the aide said.
Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.