Gun rights, national security, and free markets: Meet the new class of GOP congressional challengers at CPAC

The 2020 election season means more to Republicans than just re-electing Donald Trump — it also means taking a shot at regaining the House. Most of the CPAC agenda focused on the national election, but several House hopefuls made appearances on Media Row as well. These candidates hope to take down Democratic incumbents like Jerrold Nadler, Charlie Crist, Ted Deutch, and Dutch Ruppersberger to form a new GOP majority — and end the impeachment push for good.

Jessi Melton, a small-business owner in Florida, talks about her effort to send impeachment manager Ted Deutch into retirement in FL-22. Melton got notice for her hardline approach to porn and human trafficking, picking up a surprising endorsement from Jenna Jameson:

Florida’s 22nd district is D+6, so it will be an uphill battle but not an impossible one. It’s the same district that Allen West won, at least nominally until it was reapportioned. Deutch has won his two elections handily, but this might be a lightning-in-a-bottle election.

In FL-13, Amanda Makki hopes to send Charlie Crist into political oblivion. Makki, an Iranian refugee of the 1979 Islamist revolution, blends a fascinating life story with a love of America and a long resumé in national security and defense. Democrats “should be shocked at what their party has become,” Makki says, and says that The Squad on the other side is what motivates her. “I could be the counterpunch” to AOC and her colleagues, Makki says:

FL-13 is a D+2 district, and it’s one of the districts that are a bellwether in elections. Pinellas County flipped to Trump in 2016, while I was predicting that neighboring Hillsborough might be the bellwether instead. This is a winnable district, and Makki is taking the correct approach in focusing on local issues in the district to drive a wedge into Crist’s support.

Closer to CPAC itself, James Simpson is an old friend of mine with a new mission. He has decided to run for office in Maryland’s 2nd CD, one of the bigger reach of these challenges. It’s a D+11 district and has been in Ruppersberger’s hands since the 2002 election. “We’re going to decide this year,” Jim says, “if we’re going to continue as a constitutional republic, or take a nose dive on the suicidal path towards socialism”:

Finally, my colleague Megan Fox interviewed Dylan Stevenson, the Republican challenger in NY-10, hoping to unseat impeachment manager Jerrold Nadler. It’s a D+26 district, so it’s the longest of long shots. It’s still important to have a credible challenger in each of these Democratic strongholds, if for no other reason than to keep the crazies out from under the GOP banner, but Dylan thinks it’s winnable: