Vol. 57, No. 6

In this edition

With the 2024 election less than 12 months away, the latest edition of The Ripon Forum examines what new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson can do to help GOP candidates on the campaign trail and the state of the race heading into next year.

Gavin & Kamala: Too Left Wing for the West Wing?

While California’s Governor and the Vice President both played starring roles in San Francisco’s decline, each has also had a significant hand in spreading the city’s radical politics beyond the peninsula.

Bidenomics Defined: What Every Voter Should Know

Compared to when Biden took office, Americans are paying 20 percent more for food and 38 percent more for gasoline. It also costs 28 percent more to keep your home warm this winter.

America’s Quantum Leadership

Breakthroughs in quantum technologies are changing the world, and unless we continue to strengthen our domestic quantum industry, adversaries like China will dominate the field.

Advice for the New Speaker: Govern Like It’s 1999

Nearly 25 years ago, Congressional Republicans, facing daunting poll numbers after a failed (and unpopular) attempt to oust President Clinton through impeachment, decided to go positive.

State of the Race: Where the candidates stand, and the issues that will matter next year

One of the important dynamics for 2024 is that if the current primary frontrunners, Biden and Trump, have a rematch, both would go into the campaign with negative brand images.

The Elections Last Month & the Lessons for the Coming Year

The election results in November did not point to big problems for Democrats. Of course, presidential elections are different than mid-terms or odd-numbered year elections.

Candidates to Watch in 2024

We asked top GOP strategists a simple question — when you look out across the country, who do you see as being some of Republican rising stars that America will be hearing more about next year?

Should the Electoral College be Preserved? Yes, it Protects Against Tyranny

Abolishing the Electoral College would be mistake. It helps make self-government work. Delegates to the Federal Convention rejected allowing the people to elect the president directly.

Should the Electoral College be Preserved? No, it is Time to Bid Farewell to the Electoral College

The Electoral College, a mechanism devised to preserve the relative electoral power of smaller states, now stands as an antiquated relic that undermines the principles of fairness and equality.

Ripon Profile of Thom Tillis

Thom Tillis explains explains why “securing our border and implementing comprehensive immigration reform” are among his top legislative priorities and what Republicans need to do to retake the Senate next year.

Candidates to Watch in 2024

Fifteen Republicans who the country may be hearing more about in the coming year.

Ten years ago at this time, Joni Ernst, Tom Emmer, and Elise Stefanik were candidates for Congress, relatively unknown on the national stage.  Today, they are members of the U.S. House and Senate Republican Leadership.

With the 2024 elections just around the corner, The Ripon Forum reached out to some of the leading strategists in the GOP today with a simple question — when you look out across the country, who do you see as being some of the Republican rising stars that America will be reading and hearing more about in the coming year?

The strategists included: Jason Thielman, who serves as Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Chris Winkelman, who serves as Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC); Parker Poling, who served as Executive Director of the NRCC during the 2020 election cycle; and, Dan Conston the President of the American Action Network and Congressional Leadership Fund.

While there are clearly other Republicans who could and likely will be added to this list, below are 15 GOP candidates the country may be hearing more about in 2024:


Derrick Anderson (VA-07) – Anderson is running for the seat that opened up when Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger announced her candidacy for Governor of Virginia.  An attorney and U.S. Army combat veteran who was a member of the Green Berets, Anderson served in the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Trump.  This is not his first time running for office.  Anderson was a candidate for the same seat in the 2022 primary, finishing behind the winner, Yesli Vega.

Conston believes the name ID he earned in that race, combined with his military experience, makes him a candidate to watch in 2024.  “He’s a developed, sound, and thoughtful conservative,” Conston stated.  “We’re very excited about Derrick in Virginia.”

Tom Barrett (MI-07) – Tom Barrett may ring a bell for Michiganders. Like Derrick Anderson, he was also a candidate for this same seat two years ago.  While he won his primary, he would go on to lose to Elissa Slotkin in a campaign where Slotkin outspent him by roughly $8 million.  It was the most costly congressional election in the country and an incredibly close race. Now, with Slotkin running for the Senate, Barrett has a chance to turn the Lansing-area seat red.

Like Anderson, Barrett is also U.S. Army combat veteran, serving in uniform for 22 years.  He served in the Iraq War, Guantanamo Bay, Kuwait, and the Korean DMZ, and logged in more than 1,000 hours flying some of the most advanced helicopters in the world.  From 2014 to 2019, Barrett served in the Michigan House of Representatives. He then ran a successful state Senate campaign and was elected to the State Senate in 2019 where he continues to serve.  His opponent next November is Democrat Curtis Hertel, who works as a lobbyist in Michigan’s state capital. “The contrast of Barrett serving our country as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army to Hertel serving himself as a swamp creature in Lansing is the perfect message to win this seat,” the NRCC’s Winkelman observed.

Rob Bresnahan (PA-08) – Bresnahan is a new face to politics.  He’s spent his life working for the electrical business started by his grandfather.  He joined the business as CFO when he was 19 and helped steer it through the Great Recession of 2008.  After taking over as CEO, he led an effort to invest in and grow the business, and it now employs more than 150 Pennsylvanians.  Bresnahan is looking to unseat six-term Democrat Matt Cartwright next year in a District that supported Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.

“This Scranton-area seat needs a candidate with deep local roots and a compelling story,” Winkelman stated.  “We’ve found that in Rob Bresnahan, a business owner with multi-generational ties to the community and whose family business helped rebuild his town. Now, he wants to take that same approach to rebuilding his community to Congress in a Trump seat held by Democrat Matt Cartwright.”

Sam Brown (NV) – A graduate of West Point and recipient of the Purple Heart, Brown is running to replace first-term Democrat Jacky Rosen in the Senate next year.  Like fellow combat veterans Derrick Anderson and Tom Barrett, this is Brown’s second go at running for Congress.  He was a candidate in the 2022 GOP Senate primary, where he came in second behind former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who would go on to lose to Democrat Catherine Cortez Mastro in the November general election.

Brown’s life and career has been shaped by his service in uniform.  Four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, he was on a mission to provide support to another platoon that had been ambushed when a roadside bomb detonated under the fuel tank of his vehicle, leaving him drenched in diesel and covered in flames.  He was medically retired from the military as a Captain, and spent three years in intense physical rehabilitation.  He would go on to earn an MBA and launch a small business that provides emergency pharmaceutical support to veterans.

“We’ve recruited more veteran candidates than any time in recent NRSC cycles,” Theilman noted.  “When you consider that we are at or near an all-time low for the number of veterans serving in Congress, and you juxtapose that with the fact that we’re in the midst of two serious global conflicts with others on the horizon, having candidates who bring combat military experience is the type of leadership that I think is going to be all the more important next year.”

Laurie Buckhout (NC-01) – Buckhout is another one of those veteran candidates.  A retired Army Colonel and local business leader, she is aiming to replace first term Democrat Don Davis in the U.S. House. Buckhout served in the Army for 26 years. During her service, she received a number of awards and commendations, including the Bronze Star, Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), the Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), and several awards of Joint and Army Commendation and Achievement Medals.

Following her retirement from the military in 2010, she founded a strategic consulting and services group specializing in electronic warfare and cyberspace operations, which grew to be valued at over $43 million in less than seven years. She sold the company in 2019 and sat on the Board of Directors for the next three years.  With her decorated service in the military and her successful business career, Conston said that Buckhout “has the potential to be a really standout candidate.”

Nancy Dahlstrom (AK- At Large) – Dahlstrom is currently the sitting Lieutenant Governor of Alaska.  She is also, the NRCC’s Winkelman declared, “a popular incumbent and the perfect recruit to unite the Republican party and take out Mary Peltola.”  Peltola, a freshman, won the state’s lone congressional seat in a special election last year following the passing of longtime Congressman Don Young, who had held the seat since 1974.  Peltola defeated former Governor and 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin to win the seat.

Dahlstrom is a well-known and respected public figure in Alaska, having served in a number of elected and appointed positions over the past 20 years.  Her announcement last month that she planned to challenge Peltola was widely perceived as a recruiting coup for Republicans, and something that put the GOP in a strong position to reclaim the seat.  “We [Republicans] got one of the strongest, one of the best recruits in the whole country,” Conston told the Forum.

Alison Esposito (NY-18) – Esposito is seeking to unseat first-term Democrat Pat Ryan.  The daughter of a former police chief with the New York City Police Department, Esposito served nearly 25 years in the NYPD herself, rising to the rank of Deputy Inspector and Commanding Officer of the 70th Police Precinct.  This is her second run for political office.  In 2022, she ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor alongside then gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin.  Still, when she announced her campaign against Ryan earlier this fall, she made clear how she defines her candidacy — and herself.  “I’m not a career politician,” she said in a statement.  “I am and always will be a cop.”

According to Winkelman, her service in the NYPD will be one of the strengths and main selling points of her campaign.  “Her compelling story of service to her community – putting her community ahead of herself – is a strong match for this seat,” he said.  Conston agreed.  “Democrats are very concerned about Alison’s candidacy and the potency that she brings to it,” he observed.  “This is the Hudson Valley. This is the type of race where she could really make a huge difference and win.”

Gabe Evans (CO-08) – Evans is running to oust first-term Democrat Yadira Caraveo in a seat that was created following the 2020 census.  Another Republican recruit with stellar credentials in national defense and public safety, he spent 12 years serving in the Army and Colorado National Guard as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot and company commander.

He would later spend a decade as a police officer in the city of Arvada, where, his official campaign biography states, “he witnessed, first-hand, the consequences of Colorado Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies.”  The grandson of Mexican immigrants, he currently serves in the Colorado House of Representatives.  He and his wife also own and operate a family farm.  “I think [he] can be a real star,” Poling stated.

Heidi Kasama (NV-03) – Kasama announced her plan this past August to challenge sophomore Democratic Congresswoman Susie Lee in a D+1 district.  Currently serving her second term in the Nevada State Assembly, she started her professional career as a Certified Public Accountant.  Kasama would later get her real estate license, and would go on to manage a real estate office with 230 agents.  In 2018, she served as President of the Nevada Realtors.

When she announced her candidacy this past summer, she said she planned to focus her candidacy on education, economic development, and public safety.  “Today, we see more crime, higher living expenses, and uncontrolled health care costs,” Kasama stated.  “Students are graduating with a lack of basic education and are unprepared to enter the workforce. There is a basic lack of accountability and personal responsibility. This is not the American way of life I grew up with. I will fight hard to change the direction of our country for the sake of my grandchildren and all Nevadans.”

Leslie Lewallen (WA-03) – Lewallen is looking to unseat first-term Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in a district that was previously represented by Republican Jamie Herrara-Beutler for 12 years.  Herrara-Beutler was defeated in the 2023 GOP primary by Joe Kent, a retired Army Special Forces veteran and vocal supporter of Donald Trump who made Herrara-Beutler’s vote for Trump’s impeachment a key part of his successful primary campaign. Kent, who would go on to lose to Gluesenkamp Perez in the general election, is also running again this year.

Lewallen is a lawyer and mother of four who previously served as King County Prosecutor and now serves as a member of the Camas City Council.  In her announcement earlier this fall, she said she planned to focus her campaign on homelessness, drug addiction, school safety, rising crime rates, and timber and economic issues.  She also said her candidacy was spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.  “I saw the people and the values in the country I love just kind of falling apart and disintegrating, and I decided at that point I was going to do something about it,” the Columbian newspaper reported that Lewallen said.

Dave McCormick (PA) – McCormick is campaigning to replace third-term Democratic Senator Bob Casey on Capitol Hill.  Like other candidates on this “to watch” list, McCormick has run before.  In 2022, he was a candidate in the highly publicized race to succeed Republican Pat Toomey in the Senate.  McCormick squared off against TV talk show Doctor Mehmet Oz in the GOP primary.  Oz was endorsed by Donald Trump and ultimately prevailed before losing to Democrat John Fetterman in the general election.

McCormick was heavily recruited to make another run, and he announced his candidacy earlier this year.  His resume is golden — West Point graduate, Bronze Star Recipient and Army Ranger who went on to lead a highly successful career in the private sector where he made millions and became financially set for life.  After serving the George W. Bush Administration and on a number of boards in the years since, McCormick entered the political arena himself.  When he announced his latest candidacy in September, he made clear this race was as much about the performance of the current administration as the current Senator he is seeking to replace.  “Due to the failed leadership of Joe Biden,” McCormick declared, “America is in decline: economically, militarily, spiritually.”

Craig Riedel (OH-09) – Riedel is running against Democrat Marcy Kaptur, the longest serving woman in the history of Congress and one of the most senior Members of the 118th Congress.  Although Kaptur has held the seat since 1983, the current iteration of the 9th District of Ohio — it was redrawn before the 2022 election — leans just slightly in favor of the Republicans according to the Cook Report.  She easily defeated Republican J.R. Majewski the last time around, in part due to Majewski’s connection to Q’Anon and the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

While Majewski recently announced he plans to run for the seat again, Kaptur’s main competition next year could come from Riedel, who was born in the area, educated at Ohio State, and spent 27 years working as a civil engineer in the steel industry and volunteering for local causes.  For the past six years, he has served in the Ohio State House. Reidel ran for 9th District House seat in 2022, coming in a close second to Majewski in the primary.  He is expected to perform even better this time around.  “We feel like he really could be a standout candidate and that he ultimately will win,” said Conston.

Tim Sheehy (MT) – Sheehy is looking to unseat third-term Democrat Jon Tester in the U.S. Senate. Another veteran recruited by Republicans to run for office next year, he is a retired Navy SEAL who earned multiple combat decorations, including the Bronze Star with Valor for Heroism in Combat and the Purple Heart. Following his military services, Sheehy founded and continues to run an aerospace company which currently employs over 200 Montanans. He and his wife have four young children.  They make their home on a 20,000-acre cattle ranch, where they raise, feed, and process cattle to help develop America’s food supply chain. Sheehy is active in local charities, and serves as an active firefighting pilot who has completed hundreds of firefighting missions across the American west.

Although he faces Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale in the Republican primary, the NRSC’s Theilman is optimistic about his prospects to win the GOP nomination and unseat Tester next year.  “He has the charisma, the gravitas, and the grit to be someone that folks turn to both within the Senate and across the country to be a voice of reason and a voice of experience,” Theilman stated.  “He also represents a youthful new generation of conservative leadership that I think America is pining for.”

Joe Teirab (MN-02) – Teirab is running to replace third-term Democrat Angie Craig in the U.S. House.  The son a Sudanese immigrant and grandson of a POW in World War II, he is another Republican candidate who served America in uniform, After graduating from Harvard Law School, he joined the Marines and deployed to Iraq in support of Operative Inherent Resolve, where he supported efforts to defeat ISIS.  After leaving military service, he served as an Assistant County Attorney, where he prosecuted drug crimes, violent crimes, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Most recently, he’s served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, prosecuting large-scale narcotics trafficking and violent crime.  Poling noted that American voters can expect to see a lot of prosecutors on the Republican ballot in 2024.

In announcing his run for Congress earlier this fall, the former Marine and prosecutor said he planned to focus his candidacy on strengthening public safety and improving economic growth.  “I’m running for Congress to fight for safer communities, to put an end to Bidenomics that has made life unaffordable for too many families, to get our debt and deficit under control and to ensure safety and prosperity for all Minnesotans,” Teirab said.

Austin Theriault (ME-02) – Seeking to oust second-term Democrat Jared Golden, Theriault brings a unique resume to next year’s campaign — he is a former NASCAR driver who started racing at the local short track in Caribou, Maine and went on to compete at the highest level of the sport.  After being injured in a crash at the Talladega Motor Speedway in 2019, he left racing and was elected to the State House of Representatives in 2022.  When he announced his candidacy for Golden’s seat this past September, Theriault pointed to a number of challenges he planned to confront.  “The working class is being priced out and attacked by people in government, who hold too much power and not enough common sense,” he said.  “It’s time for relentless, energetic, and effective leadership for Maine at a national level.”

In her conversation with the Forum, Poling praised Theriault’s unique resume and called him “a great candidate.”  Conston also gave him high marks, and said he is well positioned to knock off the incumbent next year. “A NASCAR driver, state Representative, and businessman, Austin has a unique profile to appeal to this rural Maine district. By contrast, Jared Golden is an entrenched incumbent who we believe has made some recent mistakes a good candidate can exploit. In a presidential year in a Trump district, Austin is the right person to win this seat.”

Caroline Banaszak is Deputy Editor of The Ripon Forum.