Six Florida campaigns recognized by Kevin McCarthy’s GOP Young Guns program
William Figlesthaler, Leo Valentin, Carlos Gimenez.

YG Cont
Half face Democratic incumbents. The rest are all running in CD 19.

Three Republicans running for Congress in Florida were added to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Young Guns program Monday. Another three were promoted to “Contender” status.

While no Florida candidate has graduated to the highest “Top Gun” recognition, the newest additions show confidence in multiple candidates’ ability to pick off Democratic incumbents.

The list of “Contender” candidates now includes Leo Valentin, William Figlesthaler and Carlos Gimenez. Meanwhile. the program identified Anna Paulina Luna, Byron Donalds and Casey Askar as “On the Rader” campaigns.

“These candidates are instrumental in helping Republicans reclaim the House majority,” McCarthy said. “With their continued hard work and dedication Republicans will be one step closer to sending the socialist Democrats packing in November.”

Dragon Slayers?

In the case of Valentin, Gimenez and Luna, the recognition by McCarthy signals a belief these candidates could flip blue seats red.

Valentin became the first Republican recognized this cycle as a candidate who could take on Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. The physician consistently led in fundraising among those seeking to unseat Murphy and was ultimately one of only two Republicans to qualify.

Luna, who just added $233,000 into her campaign account in the first quarter, hopes to pick off Democratic incumbent Charlie Crist.

But she was not the only one to earn recognition in the Young Guns program. Amanda Makki has already been recognized as part of McCarthy’s program and sits on the “Contender” list.

Gimenez enjoyed a promotion in the Young Guns program just as he saw a clearer path to the GOP nomination in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. After pulling in $415,000 last quarter and lapping competitors, he saw his only well-financed rival for the nomination leave the race in qualification week.

The promotion in McCarthy’s program further solidifies the Miami-Dade Mayor as national Republicans’ choice to challenge Democratic incumbent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Gun Range

But half the candidates spotlighted Monday by Young Guns are running for the same seat in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

There, a total of 10 Republicans qualified in the race to succeed retiring Republican Francis Rooney.

Figlesthaler, a Naples physician, was promoted to the second level of the program, joining state Rep. Dane Eagle as a “Contender.” What that means is that the candidates completed stringent program metrics and have shown they can develop mature and competitive campaigns in competitive seats.

Eagle has raised the most in outside donations in the crowded field. Figlesthaler, meanwhile, has put $1 million out of pocket into the race on top of $276,000 raised.

Askar and Donalds both entered the contest in the first quarter. Askar, who put in a $3 million loan and raised another $500,000, quickly signaled an impact on the race. Donalds, who raised $355,000, gained national attention with his rollout in January.

Unlike other candidates spotlighted by Young Guns on Monday, the four CD 19 candidates now in the program are running in a seat widely viewed as safe.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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