House GOP campaign arm taps 32 for ‘Young Guns’ support program

Republicans need a net gain of five seats to retake House

Former Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin is looking to make a comeback next year and has been named to the NRCC’s Young Guns program. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin is looking to make a comeback next year and has been named to the NRCC’s Young Guns program. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 12, 2021 at 1:34pm

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced Tuesday that 32 candidates in 24 House districts have qualified for the first tier of its Young Guns recruitment and support program. The list includes more than a dozen candidates who ran and lost in 2020 and two former members, Maine’s Bruce Poliquin and Montana’s Ryan Zinke, who are attempting comebacks. 

“Recruitment is very strong across the board for Republicans, and this number of candidates this early signals that,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams said. 

Republicans are largely on offense this cycle as they attempt to capitalize on historical midterm trends and advantages in the redistricting process to win back the House. They need a net gain of five seats to retake the majority, and traditionally the party that controls the White House loses seats during midterm elections.

 The number of GOP candidates who have declared campaigns is well above the norm, McAdams said. 

And that upends expectations that recruitment would be sluggish until new district lines are drawn to account for population changes in the 2020 census, a process that has been delayed this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Only four states — Oregon, Maine, Nebraska and Indiana — have finalized their new district maps for 2022 so far. Tuesday’s list includes two new districts gained in redistricting — the 2nd in Montana and the 38th in Texas.

Diverse candidate pool

So far, 782 Republican candidates have filed to run, compared to 495 at this point in the 2012 cycle, the most recent redistricting round, McAdams said. The candidate pool is also more diverse, continuing a trend that has dramatically changed the makeup of new congressional classes in both parties in recent years.

This cycle’s crop of GOP candidates so far includes 180 women, 155 minorities and 164 veterans. At this point in the 2020 cycle, 124 women, 155 minorities, and 108 veterans had filed, McAdams said. 

“Our movement is more united, energized, and passionate than I’ve ever seen it,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement. “I’m proud to welcome these candidates to the Young Guns program and I look forward to working together to not only take the House — but to build a lasting Republican majority.”

To qualify for the Young Guns program, candidates have to reach certain benchmarks in fundraising, messaging and communications to prove their viability. The committee will continue to add new candidates throughout the cycle. 

The Young Guns program was launched in 2007 by McCarthy, Wisconsin Rep. and future Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, who later became House majority leader.

The NRCC does not get involved in open primaries and being named to the Young Guns first tier does not mean the committee will be contributing to the campaigns. Instead, the program is a way to showcase candidates, some of whom are competing against each other in the same district. 

The 32 Young Guns candidates are: 

  • Arizona’s 1st: Walt Blackman, Eli Crane 
  • Arizona’s 2nd: Juan Ciscomani 
  • California’s 49th: Christopher Rodriguez 
  • Florida’s 7th: Brady Duke, Cory Mills 
  • Florida’s 13th: Amanda Makki, Anna Paulina Luna 
  • Georgia’s 6th: Jake Evans, Harold Earls, Meagan Hanson 
  • Georgia’s 7th: Rich McCormick 
  • Iowa’s 3rd: Zach Nunn 
  • Illinois’ 17th: Esther Joy King 
  • Kansas’ 3rd: Amanda Adkins 
  • Maine’s 2nd: Bruce Poliquin 
  • Minnesota’s 2nd: Tyler Kistner 
  • Montana’s 2nd: Ryan Zinke 
  • New Hampshire’s 1st: Tim Baxter, Matt Mowers, Karoline Leavitt, Gail Huff Brown
  • New Jersey’s 7th: Tom Kean Jr.  
  • New York’s 18th: Colin Schmitt 
  • New York’s 19th: Marcus Molinaro 
  • Oregon’s 4th: Alek Skarlatos 
  • Pennsylvania’s 7th: Lisa Scheller 
  • Texas’ 15th: Monica De La Cruz Hernandez 
  • Texas’ 38th: Wesley Hunt 
  • Virginia’s 2nd: Jen Kiggans 
  • Washington’s 8th: Jesse Jensen
  • Wisconsin’s 3rd: Derrick Van Orden