AMAC Exclusive by: Shane Harris
It’s no secret that the 2020 was a rousing success story for House Republicans, shrinking the Democrat majority to within 10 seats. But how – and with whom – the GOP won is perhaps just as important as the outcome itself.
Republicans’ success last year was thanks in large part to a young, diverse slate of candidates who appealed to the youngest generations of American voters. Most notably, a record number of Republican women won, including burgeoning stars like Young Kim, a Korean-American who defeated a Democrat to secure her seat in California.
That surge of young talent has many Republicans hopeful that they can reverse a concerning trend of young voters increasingly voting for the Democratic Party In recent elections.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by a margin of 58% to 28% among voters aged 18-29 according to data from Pew Research Center. Trump did only marginally better among 30-49 year-olds, losing to Clinton 51% to 40%.
In 2020, the results were even worse for the Republican ticket. According to exit polls conducted by NBC, Joe Biden captured a full 65% of voters aged 18-24, compared with only 31% who voted for President Trump. In fact, the NBC poll showed Trump did not win a single group of voters below age 50. Trump won voters aged 50-64 and 65 and over both by a margin of 52%-47%.
Undoubtedly, 2016 and 2020 were unique elections in American history. And voters typically become more conservative as they grow older (leaving the sheltered life of a liberal college campus and entering the real world of taxes, mortgage payments, and public safety concerns usually does the trick). But Republican leaders have nonetheless emphasized the importance of making inroads with young voters now, lest the party struggle to remain viable with an aging voter base. A key component of this outreach is empowering more young conservative candidates.
In this respect, the 2022 cycle is shaping up to be another banner year for Republicans. As the party goes all-out to regain control of the House and Senate, the field is chock-full of promising young candidates. Here are just a few to keep an eye on that reflect the emerging trend of energetic, young conservative leaders across the country.
Karoline Leavitt is running for New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, a post currently held by Democrat Chris Pappas. If Leavitt wins next November, she will have just celebrated her 25th birthday and will become the youngest person ever elected to Congress, a title currently held by Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn. She would also be the first female Republican to represent New Hampshire in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Leavitt first broke onto the scene this past May after her Twitter account was suspended while she was working as the Communications Director for Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, now the 3rd-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. In a tweet, Stefanik called the move “an unconstitutional overreach.”
Prior to her time as a Congressional staffer, Leavitt worked as an Assistant Press Secretary for President Trump at the White House. According to the bio on her website, Leavitt attended St. Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and she says she is running because she “could no longer sit back and watch as our conservative principles – that make America the greatest country in the world and New Hampshire the best state in the union – fall under attack.” In her campaign announcement video, Leavitt promises to be a “conservative firewall” between New Hampshire and Washington Democrats.
Regarding her age, Leavitt says she views it as an asset rather than a weakness. “My age is not the problem,” she told the New York Post. “The problem is the fact that we have people in Washington, D.C., who have been serving twice as long, maybe three times as long, as I have been alive. If we want real change in our system, we should elect young leaders to reinvigorate our base.”
Leavitt faces a crowded primary field and a tough Democrat opponent in Pappas, but appears to be surging in the early stages of her candidacy. Her campaign announcement was met with favorable coverage from several media outlets, as well as national attention from shows like Fox & Friends.
New Hampshire’s First Congressional District last went for a Republican in 2014, and Pappas barely held onto the seat with 51% of the vote in 2020. New Hampshire’s State Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, is expected to draw new district lines that will favor the GOP in the First District, which would give the Republican candidate who emerges from next September’s primary contest a distinct advantage heading into the general election in November.
After five years as chair of the Georgia state ethics commission, Georgia attorney Jake Evans recently announced that he would be running to challenge incumbent Democrat Lucy McBath for her seat representing Georgia’s 6th congressional district.
The thirty-something Evans describes himself as a “bold, conservative trailblazer” who joined the race because “the radical left is seeking to erase our culture, our values and our American identity.” Evans received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia, and, according to a statement released by his campaign, “fought for the counting of only legal votes during President Trump’s re-election in Pennsylvania all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Throughout his legal career, Evans has made a name for himself investigating and exposing potential voter fraud, something that is likely to appeal to Republican voters amid continued concerns about the integrity of last year’s presidential elections in Georgia.
Georgia’s 6th congressional district has a rich history of producing conservative leaders, having been held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Former U.S. Senator from Georgia Johnny Isakson also got his start there, as well as Tom Price, who vacated the seat in 2017 to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump. Evans is no doubt keenly aware of this storied history, having himself knocked doors for Gingrich’s campaigns.
Evans has compared the 2022 race to the 1994 Congressional contest that saw Republicans – led by none other than Gingrich – retake the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952. “We fully expect to mount a revolution,” he said in a recent interview. “And it starts right here in Georgia in the 6th District.”
If Evans, son of former U.S. Ambassador Randy Evans, does manage to win the seat, it would indeed represent a revolution of sorts. The district has trended more Democratic in recent years after McBath flipped the seat in 2018.
While Georgia’s state legislature is controlled by Republicans, just what exactly the district will look like next year is still largely unknown. The legislature could redraw lines to include more suburban and rural areas, which would likely favor Republicans, but may also abandon the district to Democrats in order to shore up Republican majorities in surrounding districts.
As it currently stands, the district encompasses much of the northern arc of metro Atlanta and several surrounding suburbs on the north side of the city. Regardless of where the new boundaries are drawn, expect public safety, along with election integrity, to be a major issue heading into next year’s race, as Atlanta has seen an unprecedented surge in violent crime like other liberal cities.
In what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested Congressional races next year, Tina Ramirez, a former teacher and founder of Hardwired Global, a group dedicated to fighting religious intolerance around the world, recently announced her candidacy for Virginia’s 7th Congressional seat next November.
This is Ramirez’ second run for the seat. She ultimately came up short in the Republican nominating contest in 2020 to Nick Freitas, who then lost to Democrat Abigail Spanberger in the general election. Spanberger first won the seat in 2018, ousting Republican incumbent Dave Brat.
In a recent interview with Virginia Scope, Ramirez said that she is a “pro-life, single mother” who “run[s] a global nonprofit organization that does human rights work around the world.” She also criticized Spanberger’s record in Congress, saying that “Abigail Spanberger is voting lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden for policies that are creating burdensome regulations for small businesses who are already hurting from COVID, politicizing and downgrading our education system, and making our elections less secure.”
Ramirez has also been on the front lines in the battle against Critical Race Theory (CRT), writing for Fox News that CRT “essentially establishes a new metric for human value, one rooted in Marxism,” going on to say that “not one cent of taxpayer dollars should go to teaching kids to hate others.” Ramirez specifically called attention to a series of school board meetings in Loudon County earlier this year that became a flashpoint in the ongoing debate over the implementation of CRT and related ideologies in public schools.
Along with flipping from Republican to Democrat in 2018, Virginia’s 7th district narrowly went for Joe Biden in 2020 after Donald Trump won there in 2016. Spanberger barely escaped defeat in 2020, winning by a margin of just over 8,000 votes out of more than 450,000 votes cast. If Republicans are to take back the House in 2022, their chances of success will rest in large part on defeating vulnerable incumbents like Spanberger.
It is undoubtedly true that young candidates face uphill battles running against more experienced opponents. But just as radical progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the “Squad” once defied the odds and won tough races, this young, promising group of conservatives could lead the same sort of revolution for Republicans, ushering in a new era of conservatism just when the country needs it most.
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