EXCLUSIVE: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday unveiled the first round of "Young Guns" – promising candidates running in the 2022 midterm elections - when the GOP aims to win back the chamber’s majority from the Democrats.
The list released by the longtime congressman from California, which was shared first with Fox News on Monday, includes eight candidates running in some of the nation’s most competitive congressional districts in next year’s elections.
On the list are former Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine (ME-02), Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin (WI-03), Esther Joy King of Illinois (IL-17), Tom Kean Jr. of New Jersey (NJ-07), Amanda Adkins of Kansas (KS-03), Ryan Zinke of Montana (MT-01/02), and from two from Texas - Monica De La Cruz Hernandez (TX-15) and Wesley Hunt (TX-38).
The 14-year-old "Young Guns" program, led by McCarthy in conjunction with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the House GOP reelection arm, helps equip Republican candidates across the country who show the promise of running successful campaigns with "the tools they need" to win. The program is divided into three levels, and to make the list, candidates have to exhibit potential by meeting thresholds for campaign fundraising and organization.
In the 2020 elections, 25 of the 36 candidates designated "Young Guns" were elected to Congress. And the NRCC notes that the program has helped elect over 150 GOP members of Congress since its inception.
"When we started this program 14 years ago, our goal was to ensure we had the most credentialed candidates in the toughest races across the country. This standard has been met as the Young Guns program has helped elect over 150 members — and with our current class we expect to significantly add to this total when we take back the House next November," McCarthy told Fox News.
"I’m confident these eight individuals represent the future of the Republican Party and when elected will hit the ground running to get America back on track," he added.
While Republicans lost the White House and their Senate majority in the 2020 cycle, they defied expectations and took a big bite out of the Democrats’ large House of Representatives majority. The GOP needs a net gain of just five seats next year in the 435-seat chamber to recapture the majority it lost in the 2018 election.
The NRCC last week expanded its 57-member offensive target list of what it considers vulnerable House Democrats, adding 13 representatives, bringing the total to an ambitious 70 Democrats it will target ahead of next year's midterms.
The move came after major GOP victories for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and state lawmakers in Virginia - which now-President Biden carried by 10 points in last year’s election and where Republican candidates had not won statewide contests in a dozen years – and legislative pickups in the solidly blue state of New Jersey.
"If you're a Democrat and President Biden won your seat by 16 points, you're in a competitive race next year. You are no longer safe," McCarthy emphasized last Wednesday.
The announcement of the initial "Young Guns" list came hours before former President Donald Trump was scheduled to headline a major NRCC fundraising dinner, which is being held in Tampa, Florida.