A pair of California Republican candidates with rather intriguing biographies are close to running for two top-targeted House seats next cycle.

Jacquie Atkinson, an openly gay Marine Corps combat veteran and wounded warrior, is moving toward a run against Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). Indio Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson (R), a Hispanic politician and businesswoman, plans to jump in against Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).


The seats are top GOP targets, after they fell short of taking out the pair of sophomore Democrats, both of whom have proven to be tough campaigners in swing districts. 

Peters eked out a hard-fought victory last cycle, despite having millions spent against him, while Ruiz won by a comfortable 8-percentage-point margin despite being an early target of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Both women were in Washington, D.C., last week and met with the NRCC as a pair. They're working with GOP consultant Tommy Knepper, who's no stranger to working for Republicans with unusual backgrounds — he was campaign manager for openly gay former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio's (R) 2014 House race against Peters, which he narrowly lost.

Atkinson is an expert in improvised explosive devices and served as a platoon commander in Iraq. After being wounded, she came back to Camp Pendleton, outside of San Diego, and has lived in the city ever since, continuing to work as an adviser on asymmetric warfare since. Her profile could fit well in the socially liberal district, which has a number of large military bases and a huge population of military veterans.

"As a Marine Corps combat veteran, I am very concerned about the direction of our country. That is why I’m taking the time to seriously listen and consider the opinions of leaders in my community," Atkinson said in a statement to The Hill. "I will be making my decision in the next few weeks.”

Ramos Watson works in real estate and has long been involved in GOP politics in the Coachella Valley. She was also the district manager for former California state Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R), who ran a lackluster campaign against Ruiz and lost badly in 2014. Republicans would be well served to nominate a Hispanic candidate for the seat in the heavily Hispanic and Democratic-trending Coachella Valley district, which Ruiz first won in 2012.

"Over the past several months I have been contacted by a variety of community leaders who have asked me to run for Congress," she said in a statement to The Hill. "Having served 10 years on the Indio City Council and three terms as Mayor, I know the needs and concerns of working families in this district are not being well represented by Raul Ruiz."

While both have unusual biographies that could be good fits for their districts, it's unclear whether they'll be the favorites for the GOP establishment, as the National Republican Congressional Committee is just beginning to ramp up its recruitment efforts.

"Both certainly have intriguing bios, but it's too early to say whether they'll be the top GOP candidates in the districts," said one national GOP strategist.

This post was updated at 6:30 p.m.