Johnson-linked PAC releases first slate of ‘trailblazer’ House endorsements

The Congressional Leadership Fund announced its first round of “trailblazer” candidate endorsements on Wednesday as the party seeks to expand its majority in the lower chamber in the 2024 election.

Considered the top Republican super PAC endorsed by House leaders such as Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), the group released the names of 20 House GOP candidates whose campaigns will receive “direct financial support” from its Trailblazers Fund.

Candidates receiving the endorsement are Nancy Dahlstrom of Alaska, Kevin Lincoln of California, Scott Baugh of California, Gabe Evans of Colorado, George Logan of Connecticut, Joe McGraw of Illinois, Randy Niemeyer of Indiana, Prasanth Reddy of Kansas, Austin Theriault of Maine, Tom Barrett of Michigan, Joe Teirab of Minnesota, Laurie Buckhout of North Carolina, Yvette Herrell of New Mexico, Alison Esposito of New York, Orlando Sonza of Ohio, Derek Merrin of Ohio, Kevin Coughlin of Ohio, Rob Bresnahan of Pennsylvania, Rob Mercuri of Pennsylvania, and Derrick Anderson of Virginia.

“These candidates have proven they have what it takes to connect with voters and win in battleground districts,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement. “For the third straight cycle, House Republicans have had tremendous recruits in swing seats — and that can make all the difference. With the right resources, we will be well-positioned to hold and grow the House Majority come November.”

Almost all of the “standout” candidates have already been endorsed by all of the House GOP leaders, and they were selected due to their “proven track records of tangible achievement and impressive character, who have also met clear benchmarks of campaign organization, fundraising, and grassroots outreach.”

Several of the candidates receiving the “trailblazers” endorsement are rising stars in the GOP whom the party hopes will flip key seats that will increase their razor-thin majority in the House, such as Anderson, Buckhout, Esposito, and Herrell.

Anderson, who is running in a competitive race to flip Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s (D-VA) seat, said he was “honored” to have the CLF’s endorsement. Spanberger is not seeking reelection and is instead running for governor in 2025, as Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) will term out and be ineligible for reelection.

“They know what it takes to win the tough elections and will make sure we grow the majority in November,” Anderson said in a post on X.

Herrell is the only former House member among the candidates who is receiving an endorsement from the Trailblazers Fund. She was one of several House Republicans who lost their seats to Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections. Esposito is running to oust Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY), the only swing-district Democrat left standing in the Empire State.

Buckholt’s race has given House Republicans an opportunity to oust incumbent Rep. Don Davis (D-NC) in North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, which is considered a “toss-up” by Cook Political Report. The district, which has been held by a Democrat since the 1880s, has trended toward Republicans over the last few election cycles, but redistricting pushed the territory even further into GOP hands.

The CLF’s trailblazer endorsements are just one of several campaign efforts to support Republicans as they seek to hold on to their dwindling majority, as several GOP members are either planning to retire at the end of 2024 or have left Congress already.

The fund, along with the nonprofit American Action Network, brought in $16 million in the 10 days after Johnson was elected speaker, which eased concerns about the Louisiana congressman’s ability to fundraise big money compared to his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.


Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), despite pleas from House leadership, is still retiring early from the House on April 19. He had announced in February that he would not seek reelection in 2024 but later decided on March 22 that he would leave Congress early.

Following the resignation of Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) on March 22, the Republican majority narrowed to 218-213. With Gallagher’s retirement, it will narrow to 217, and the likely election of a Democrat to fill former New York Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins’s seat will result in a 217-214 majority, meaning Johnson can only afford to lose one vote on any given measure to pass the House along party lines.

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