16 in ‘16: Races to Watch
Arizona Senate District 13
With control of the senate, house and governor’s office, Republicans have
a trifecta in the Arizona state government.
At the age of five, Steve Montenegro and his family immigrated to the United States from El Salvador
where he was born. A graduate from Arizona State University, Montenegro spent five years as president
of the Arizona Messengers of Peace and the board of its national organization. A passionate advocate
for education and school choice, he is an advisory board member of the Arizona Charter Academy and
previously taught at the Arizona Charter Academy and Superior School. He is also a trustee of the Arizona
Christian University. Montenegro is a district representative in the office of U.S. Congressman Trent
Franks. Montenegro was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2008. He was elected by his
fellow caucus members to serve as House Majority Leader for the current 52nd Legislature. His legislative
accomplishments include being the primary sponsor of the American Civics Act, which requires Arizona’s
high school students to pass the same civics test required of newly naturalized citizens.
Montenegro, a Future Majority Project board member, faces no opponent in his Senate campaign.
Arizona House District 28
Republicans have a 36-24 majority in the Arizona House.
After obtaining her law degree from American University in Washington, D.C.,
Maria Syms went on to serve as a staff attorney and law clerk to the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where she had the opportunity to work under now Supreme Court Justice
Samuel Alito. In her private legal practice, Syms represented clients ranging from small businesses to
multinational corporations. She also served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Justice Department
and as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Arizona State University. Syms most recently served as Senior Legal
Policy Advisor to the Arizona Attorney General. The daughter of an Italian immigrant, Syms understands that
quality education is the key to opportunity for our next generation. As a mother of young children in public
schools and a former member of a local school board, Syms is personally committed to maximizing resources
in Arizona classrooms so educators and students have every opportunity to succeed. Today, Syms serves as a
Councilwoman for the Town of Paradise Valley. Syms holds a Master Degree in Public Policy from the Harvard
Kennedy School of Government.
Republicans are looking to hold one seat and flip the other in legislative district 28 as neither of the two
incumbents are running for reelection.
Colorado House District 31
The GOP needs a net gain of two seats to regain control of the chamber
for the first time since 2012.
Jessica Sandgren has called Colorado home for over 40 years. Now a passionate teacher for over a decade,
Sandgren initially struggled in school and dropped out of high school. Eventually, she attained her GED and
enrolled in community college, where she met a professor who inspired her to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree
and a career as a teacher. She went on to add a certificate from UCLA in college counseling and has been
in the classroom ever since. As an educator, Sandgren has seen firsthand how inefficient education policies
negatively impact students’ ability to learn and prepare for a university. Now, she’s seeking to bring her
passion and expertise to Denver to fight for students, their families and the future of Colorado.
Incumbent Joe Salazar, who is seeking reelection, defeated his Republican challenger by just 221 votes in
2014, the smallest margin of victory by any Democrat.
Connecticut Senate District 17
Republicans need to pick up four seats in the Connecticut Senate in
order to control the chamber for the first time in 20 years.
George Logan is a first-time candidate, but nevertheless has a proven passion for public service. A
longtime employee of Aquarion, the largest private water company in the state, he has worked as the
Director of Environmental Management and Government Relations since 2014 and in various leadership
and support roles prior to that. Throughout his career, he has received numerous business and industry
awards including the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce 43rd Annual Gold Seal Award in 2014, among
others. Logan also has a long history of service within Senate District 17 as a basketball coach and board
member for Griffin Hospital, the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Central Connecticut Coast
YMCA and Junior Achievement of Western Connecticut. Now, Logan is looking to bring a new way of
thinking to Hartford politics. In the state senate, Logan will support local/private sector solutions for public
problems, fight for smaller government and encourage individual freedom and responsibility. George
Logan represents a new direction for a better Connecticut.
Republicans came closer to flipping this seat in 2014 than any other year in nearly two decades.
Connecticut House District 110
The House GOP caucus has grown from 37 members in 2010 to 64
this year, the largest it has been since 1994.
A Brazilian-American immigrant raised in Danbury, Emanuela Palmares got
an early start in public service. At the age of 15, she helped the Danbury Public Library create a program
to provide language services to the community, and continues to have a positive impact in her hometown
today. Her robust resume of service includes helping Portuguese-speaking victims of domestic violence at
the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, making home visits with the Danbury Head Start Program, and
serving on the boards of the Regional YMCA, the United Way of Northern Fairfield County Emerging Leaders
Council, and several other local charities. She also volunteers as a translator at AmeriCares Free Clinic and
as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor at the Center for Brazilian Assistance. In 2013, Palmares
was appointed commissioner on the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission – the first Brazilian to serve
on this advisory commission to the governor and the legislature. She also is the editor-in-chief of Tribuna,
a biweekly publication in English, Portuguese and Spanish whose mission is to build cultural bridges and
provide readers with information that connects them with their communities.
Palmares is the first Brazilian-American to run for state-level office in Connecticut.
La Mar Gunn
Delaware Lieutenant Governor
Republicans are looking to win the lieutenant governor’s office in
Delaware for the first time since 1998.
A longtime resident of Wilmington, La Mar Gunn is a community activist committed to making Delaware a
better and safer place to live and work for all. He currently serves as CEO and Investment Strategist with
Gunn Wealth Management, a small business he founded to help others build wealth, achieve their life goals,
and contribute to a growing economy. Gunn is known for his dedication to helping others achieve a higher
quality of life. As president of the Central Delaware Branch of the NAACP, he helped diffuse tensions between
Dover’s black community and its local police department, leading Dover to become a national model for
community-police relations. Gunn is committed to restoring confidence and integrity to the lieutenant
governor’s office, and he is running with an optimistic vision for a better, stronger, more vibrant Delaware.
Gunn is the first African American endorsed by any party in Delaware for one of the two highest offices
in state government.
Illinois House District 71
Republicans need a net gain of one seat to end the Democratic supermajority
in the Illinois House.
As the Mayor of Savanna, Tony McCombie has a proven record of reaching across the aisle and embracing
bipartisanship to find ways to work together for the good of the community. After four years of serving her
city, McCombie wants to lend her voice to the district at large and fight to end the culture of corruption and
complacency in Springfield. Her diversified experiences have molded her into a qualified candidate who
understands the importance of fostering a business friendly climate, economic growth and regionalism.
McCombie also actively works in the real estate industry, where she has built success through hard work,
creativity and communication. A high-energy public servant, successful business owner and champion of
conservative ideals, McCombie will prove a necessary factor in getting Illinois back on track.
McCombie will face Democrat Mike Smiddy in a district that Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and
Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti carried in 2014.
Kentucky House District 20
Republicans need to flip just four seats to gain a majority in the
only southern chamber still under Democrat control.
Melinda Hill is a proud Kentuckian and native of Warren County who, with the exception of her early
childhood and college years, has resided in Bowling Green her entire life. The love she has for her
community manifests itself in her public service. Hill was elected Bowling Green City Commissioner in
2011 and is serving her second term as Mayor Pro Tem. She chairs the Sloan Convention Center Board and
the Job Development Incentive Program, while also serving as an active member of several other local
nonprofits. During her time as vice president of the Inter-Modal Transportation Authority and Controller
for the Center of Information Technology Enterprise, Hill gained considerable experience in management.
Notably, she also has significant business experience, having worked for both Fortune 500 companies and
locally owned businesses. A champion of local government and free enterprise, Hill is a vocal supporter of
Hill is challenging incumbent Democrat Jody Richards in a district Mitt Romney narrowly won in 2012,
Senator Mitch McConnell won in 2014, and Governor Matt Bevin won in 2015.
Maine Senate District 6
Republicans hold a 20-15 majority in the Maine Senate, but control
of the chamber has changed hands the last two elections.
A retired college administrator, former chair of the Maine Association of Student Financial Aid Administrations,
and former member of the Calais School Board, Joyce Maker has utilized her experience and passion for
academics to fight for a stronger education system in Maine. As state representative, she has served as the
appointed House Republican lead on Educational and Cultural Affairs and on the specially-formed Committee
on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. She also has extensive experience in local government, having
served on the Calais City Council for three terms. Maker hopes to take her talents to the Senate, to represent
a larger swath of the state she calls home and fight for Maine’s students, workers and families.
Maker is running for an open Republican seat, after incumbent Senator David Burns decided to not seek
Michigan House District 83
Due to term limits, Republicans have more open seats in the Michigan
House than Democrats — 27 to 12 — and currently hold a 62-45 majority.
Shane Hernandez grew up in Croswell, MI and now lives in Port Huron with his wife and two children.
A lifelong resident of the 83rd District, Hernandez now works as the vice president of design at a local
architectural firm. Hernandez is a lifelong Republican who has been involved in local and state politics in
several different roles including chairman of the St. Clair County GOP, executive committee member in
the 10th Congressional District GOP, and as a MIGOP state committee member. His political background is
that of an activist. Unlike career politicians, Hernandez is committed to working for the people of the 83rd
District – not Lansing special interests. Throughout his campaign, Hernandez has racked up an impressive
list of endorsements from prominent groups, such as Right to Life Michigan and the Michigan Chamber of
Montana Lieutenant Governor
Robinson and her running mate, businessman Greg Gianforte, are
running against first-term incumbent Steve Bullock.
Lesley Robinson is a fourth generation Phillips County rancher, a county commissioner and an advocate for
the agriculture community and rural land issues. As the Western representative for the National Association
of Counties, she represents 15 states and has gained valuable perspective on the importance of local
government and the need to cut down on invasive, regulatory burdens. Robinson’s experience will allow
her to open lines of communication between the state and local governments, and serve as the voice for
Montana’s number one industry – agriculture. As someone who has testified before the state legislature and
the U.S. Congress, she is no stranger to fighting for her state and standing up against big government. In
the office of lieutenant governor, she will continue to advocate for rural communities and return a culture of
“customer service” to state government in Helena.
In 2012, incumbent Democrat Governor Steve Bullock and his running mate won with only 49 percent of the
New Mexico House District 32
As of 2014, Republicans control the New Mexico House for the first
time since 1952 and have a 37-33 majority in the chamber.
Vicki Chávez has deep roots in southwestern New Mexico, where her record
of service extends back to her youth. Growing up, she was active in FFA, Student Government, and 4-H.
She has continued to give back to her community as a soccer coach, a Girl Scout troop leader, and board
member for both the Deming Youth Soccer League board member and The Children’s Reading Foundation
of Luna County. In addition to her local service, Chávez – who has a master’s degree in Curriculum and
Instruction – works on several state-level association boards that promote education across New Mexico.
As state representative, Chávez will continue advocating on behalf of New Mexico’s students, using her
background in academia to shape policies that will help young New Mexicans build brighter futures.
The incumbent Democrat is not running for re-election to this seat, which gives Republicans a chance
to grow their new majority by winning a district Mitt Romney won with 48 percent of the vote.
Oregon Senate District 25
Republicans are targeting three Democrat-held seats in the Oregon
Senate, currently led by Democrats with an 18-12 majority.
Tamie Tlustos-Arnold has called East County home for over 20 years. A registered nurse, small-business
owner, and city councilmember, she has the diverse experience and perspective needed to give East
County residents the representation they deserve in the state senate. As a board member for Mount Hood
Community College and a former member of the Reynolds School District Budget Committee, Tlustos-
Arnold has also gained considerable insight into the benefits of finding local solutions to repair and improve
Oregon’s education system. As state senator, she will bring this attitude to Salem and fight to build a
stronger, more affordable school system for students. Tlustos-Arnold also serves as Vice President of the
West Columbia Gorge Chamber, where she works to make East County a business-friendly community that
encourages job growth and more opportunities for all Oregonians.
In 2014, Democrat Governor John Kitzhaber won this district by only two points.
Oregon House District 51
Ten incumbent Democrat representatives did not file to run for
reelection this year, including in House District 51.
Raised in a small farm community, Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer was the first
in her family to graduate from college. Following graduation, she worked
to support her husband Shawn while he attended medical school. Chavez-DeRemer has focused much of her
professional career on giving back to Happy Valley and surrounding communities beginning in 2002 when
she was appointed to the Happy Valley Parks committee. She was later elected to the Happy Valley City
Council, serving as council president until she was elected mayor in 2010 and again in 2014. Under Chavez-
DeRemer’s leadership, the council promoted sound fiscal policies, balancing budgets and building reserves,
all while protecting essential services at the second lowest tax rate in the state. She also pushed to streamline
regulations and protect Happy Valley’s thriving small businesses. Chavez-DeRemer is also active in her
community through numerous organizations including the Happy Valley Business Alliance, North Clackamas
Chamber, Clackamas Community College Bond Campaign and several other nonprofit organizations. Chavez-
DeRemer continues to work in the Anesthesia Management firm she founded with her husband.
Former Democrat Governor John Kitzhaber lost House District 51 by several points in 2014.
Washington House District 44 A, pos 1
Republicans have made gains in the Washington House over the past
five consecutive elections and need only one to tie the chamber.
The daughter of two school teachers, Janice Huxford comes from a family who revered public service
and taught her to always put people first, not politics. Today, she continues to operate on that philosophy,
serving her community in a number of ways – from acting as Den Leader for Boy Scouts of America Troop
#187, to volunteering as a local planning commissioner. Huxford and her husband also own and operate a
local roofing and recycling company that was awarded Business of the Year in 2013, and actively support
local causes, such as the Food Bank and the Lake Stevens Education Foundation. Huxford aims to bring
the perspective of a small business owner to Olympia, to fight for common sense deregulation and bring a
fresh, honest perspective to the legislature. Huxford has received a number of high profile endorsements,
including the Seattle Times, the Everett Herald, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the
Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs.
The Democrat vacating this seat won in 2014 by a narrow margin of only three points.
Nancy Reagan Foster
West Virginia House District 38
Republicans flipped the West Virginia House in 2014 for the first time
since the 1930s. Today, the GOP holds a 63-36 majority in the chamber.
A native of Mexico, Nancy Reagan Foster emigrated to Southern California as a child where she was raised
with conservative Christian values in a modest home. She got her first job at age 14, started working full-time
at age 18, and in 1993, chose to make West Virginia her permanent home when she accepted a job at the Dow
Chemical plant in Institute, WV. Nancy Reagan Foster has also owned a small business with more than thirty
employees, and understands firsthand how big government and unaddressed issues – like West Virginia’s
current tort system – can create obstacles for entrepreneurs and hamper economic growth. A lifelong
Conservative, Nancy serves as a member of the Republican Executive Committee in Putnam County, Putnam
County Republican Club, Putnam County Republican Women’s Club, Kanawha County Republican Women’s
Club, and Rotary Club. She also, serves as a member of the board of directors for Midland Trail Friends of NRA
and Putnam County Aging Program. Always an advocate for small-business and free enterprise, Nancy
Reagan Foster is also an avid supporter of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.
The Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) The Future Majority Project (FMP) seeks
to identify, recruit, train and support candidates who better reflect the full diversity of our
nation. Launched in 2011, FMP supports men and women from diverse communities as they
run to grow the economy, support job creators and focus on ways to keep more money in
the pockets of working families. The efforts are helping to build a strong bench of current
and future Republican leaders. In the 2013-2014 cycle, FMP recruited 244 new candidates
of all diverse backgrounds and successfully helped elect 43 to office in states nationwide,
with an investment totaling more than $6 million – in partnership with Right Women, Right
Now. In 2015-2016, FMP aims to spend at least $7 million – in partnership with Right Women,
Right Now – to recruit 250 new diverse candidates and see 50 of those appointed or elected
to state-level office. FMP plans to see 10 diverse elected officials enter leadership and
expand the initiative’s “Diversity in Business” roundtable program. FMP is chaired by former
Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, with Governors Susana Martinez (R-NM) and
Brian Sandoval (R-NV) serving as Honorary Co-Chairs.
The Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) Right Women, Right Now (RWRN)
initiative serves to identify, recruit and support women candidates nationwide in order to
help elect more Republican leaders who better embody the electorate of our country, where
women are 53 percent of the voters. RWRN offers candidate trainings, mentorship matchings
and digital organizing tools for our candidates’ campaigns for state-level office. Since its
founding in 2012, RWRN has recruited hundreds of women candidates, elected 229 new
women to office and continues working to grow the largest caucus of Republican elected
women in the country. RWRN is co-chaired by Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell,
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. In
the 2015-2016 election cycle, RWRN aims to recruit 500 new women candidates to run for
state-level office, see 150 of the candidates appointed or elected, and see 15 women elected
officials enter state-level leadership - spending at least $7 million, in partnership with FMP. So
far in the 2015-2016 cycle, RWRN has helped elect new women candidates in eight states.