NRCC names 36 recruits to program for top candidates

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Thursday announced its first round of top candidates for 2014, pledging to provide all 36 candidates guidance as they build their campaigns.

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The 36 have been put "On the Radar," the first level in the tiered path to achieving "Top Gun" status, the designation given to House GOP candidates that have proven to run strong, competitive campaigns.

"On the Radar" candidates receive support and mentorship from the committee and GOP leadership, and are given fundraising and operational benchmarks to meet to rise to the next level of the "Young Guns" program.

The "Young Guns" program, founded by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) three election cycles ago, helps the GOP's top candidates stay on track toward running winning campaigns. According to the committee, candidates will work with all four lawmakers to develop their campaigns.

Notable additions to the program include four former lawmakers who have launched reelection campaigns for their old seats: Bob Dold, challenging Rep. Brad Schneider in Illinois's 10th District; Bobby Schilling, challenging Rep. Cheri Bustos in Illinois's 17th District; Frank Guinta, challenging Rep. Carol Shea Porter in New Hampshire's 1st District; and Nan Hayworth, challenging Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in New York's 18th District.

The NRCC also added Richard Tisei to the list. The top 2012 contender has taken the first steps towards a rematch with Rep. John Tierney in Massachusetts's 6th District, launching an exploratory committee, but he hasn't yet made his bid official. The NRCC's designation would seem to indicate he's definitely in.

The committee chose not to take sides in the race to replace Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who is the party's preferred candidate to face Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). It named both GOP contenders, businessman Tommy Moll and Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, to the program.

And it endorsed multiple candidates in three competitive California races.

In California's 45th District, where four Republicans are vying for the chance to succeed retiring Rep. John Campbell (R), the NRCC named only state Sen. Mimi Walters and investment manager Patrick Maciariello to the program.

In California's 52nd District, represented by Democrat Scott Peters, the committee named Fred Simon and Carl DeMaio as top candidates.

Against Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, in California's 7th District, former Rep. Doug Ose, congressional aide Igor Birman and businesswoman Elizabeth Emken were named to the program.

Both DeMaio and Ose are considered stronger candidates in the general election.

NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in a statement that the candidates named to the program would provide a "stark contrast" to incumbent Democrats — and to ObamaCare issues — in 2014.

“These 36 candidates all provide a stark contrast to their liberal opponents, whose support of ObamaCare and this Administration’s big-government, job-destroying agenda has taken a toll on the American people,” he said.

“With ObamaCare’s bad policies and botched rollout affecting families across our nation, and our country diving deeper into debt each and every day, it’s time to bring real change backed by conservative principles and priorities to Washington." 

--This piece was corrected to remove details about Georgia's 12th district race. The NRCC has named a GOP candidate from that race to the program.

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