16 in ‘16: Races to Watch
Arkansas House District 85
In 2012, the GOP flipped the House for the first time since Reconstruction.
Dwight Gonzales has an incredible personal story of strength and perseverance. An 11-year survivor of
testicular cancer, Gonzales has now been married for 14 years and is a proud father of seven children. He
and his wife have been the foster parents of 49 Arkansas children, adopting three of those children from the
state. In the House of Representatives, Gonzales will continue building a brighter future for Arkansas youth
at the legislative level, giving a voice to those in need and ensuring equal opportunity for all. Currently, he
serves as a pastor in Farmington, AR and was previously a board member for a small community chamber of
commerce, where he helped support a thriving local business community.
If elected, Gonzales will be the first Future Majority Project candidate elected in Arkansas.
Delaware Senate District 8
The GOP needs a net gain of two seats to flip this chamber for the first
time since 1972.
Meredith Chapman is a young, fresh face in local politics already recognized as a rising star in the Delaware
Republican Party. A native of Newark, DE, Chapman obtained both her undergraduate and master’s degrees
at the University of Delaware. After working as a reporter and producer for an NPR affiliate television
station, and then as a communications manager on Capitol Hill, Chapman decided to pursue her passion for
education. She returned to her alma mater to serve as an adjunct faculty member and as the Director of Digital
Communications for the university. Chapman is a respected communications executive, earning recognitions
from PR News as a “Top Social Media Professional” and from the Delaware Business Times, which named her
to their “40 under 40” list. Chapman is also an active leader in her community, serving on the board of the
Newark Senior Center, the marketing committee for the Delaware Community Foundation and partnering with
dozens of nonprofits to fulfill needs in the community while providing hands-on learning experiences for her
In 2014, all three Republican candidates for statewide office carried this district.
Florida House District 80
Republicans currently hold a supermajority in the Florida House.
A Finance and Marketing graduate of Florida State University, Byron Donalds
now lives in Naples where he gives back to his Southwest Florida community in various ways. In 2014, he
was appointed by Governor Rick Scott as a member of the Board of Trustees for Florida Southwestern State
College. He is also the Vice President and founding board member of Mason Classical Academy, a Hillsdale
College public charter school, and an advisory board member for the Salvation Army of Collier County.
Donalds has served as a youth leader at Living Word Family Church for over a decade and also enjoys
volunteering as a coach in youth football and basketball leagues. In addition to his service to the community,
Donalds brings financial and risk management expertise from his career in banking and insurance. A
businessman and conservative leader, Byron Donalds is a rising star in the Republican Party.
In 2012, as a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives to succeed Connie Mack, Byron
carried Collier County in the Republican primary. He is unopposed in the general election this year.
Florida House District 60
Republicans maintained majorities in the Florida House and Senate
in 2008 and 2012, despite President Obama winning the state in both
Jackie Toledo is a product of Tampa’s public schools, including the University of South Florida (USF), where
she earned a degree in Civil Engineering through the Latino Scholarship Program. After graduation, Toledo
became a licensed engineer and worked on several transportation plans in the Tampa Bay area, including
master plans for USF, the Florida Aviation Systems and the 2012 Olympic bid process. In 2002, Toledo
was recognized as the Florida State Institute of Transportation Engineer of the Year. She continues to stay
active in her community and established a scholarship program at USF to make sure other young, ambitious
students receive the same opportunities that she was honored to have received. In 2010, she opened
her own business, a children’s performing arts program, which focuses on teaching life skills to children
through the arts. After growing up in Tampa, going through the local public school system and working on
transportation and infrastructure issues that are critical to the city’s growth, Toledo will be a reliable advocate
for the Tampa Bay Area when elected to the legislature this fall.
Toledo is one of eight Future Majority Project candidates running as the Republican Party nominee for
the Florida Legislature this fall.
Illinois House District 79
Republicans need a net gain of only one seat to end the Democrat
supermajority in this chamber.
A small business owner, practicing attorney and local volunteer, Lindsay
Parkhurst has dedicated her life to serving others. She is now running for office as a concerned citizen who
will stand up for her community and fight corruption in Springfield. Parkhurst, who holds both a Law Degree
and a Master’s in Health Law, sees education as a powerful tool for creating jobs and equal opportunity for
all. She has also run her own business – a small general practice law office – for 16 years and understands
the challenges of running a company under budget while balancing high tax rates and cumbersome
regulations. Parkhurst has also dedicated much of her professional career to giving a voice to those in need,
serving as a Kankakee County assistant public defender for juvenile and abuse and neglect cases from
2005-2014. Parkhurst is also active in her community through her service with local schools, the Kankakee
Society of Women in Law, the Community Foundation, and more.
In 2014, the Republican candidate for House District 79 lost by less than half a percent of the vote.
Kentucky House District 15
Republicans need a net gain of four seats to flip the Kentucky House –
the last Southern legislative chamber still under Democrat control.
Melinda Gibbons Prunty made her home in Kentucky’s 15th House District over 30 years ago, when she
moved there with her husband to build his medical practice. Since then, Gibbons Prunty has established
deep roots in the community for herself, her husband and their three daughters. A physical therapist of nearly
20 years, Gibbons Prunty will bring valuable insight to help craft more effective and efficient healthcare
policies. She has also been vocal about fighting job-killing, anti-coal regulations that hurt Kentucky’s working
class families, protecting our constitutional freedoms, and standing up for the rights of the unborn as well as
for children in need by reforming adoption laws. An active community leader, Gibbons Prunty recently retired
after nearly 20 years of serving as the Director of the Office for Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Owensboro
in order to seek the office of State Representative for the 15th District in Kentucky.
Prunty is one of seven first time female candidates running in a district carried by the Bevin/Hampton
ticket in 2015.
Minnesota Senate District 54
Republicans need to flip just five seats to gain a majority in the
A Cottage Grove resident and small business owner, Leilani Holmstadt and her husband Gale have three
daughters. As a family, they have contributed hundreds of hours giving back to the community they call
home. Holmstadt, who has a background in social work, also spent much of her professional life serving
others as an adult psychiatric case manager before opening her own business. Although she has not
held public office, Holmstadt has testified at the Minnesota Capitol against efforts to require child care
unionization and previously ran for school board in 2013. Holmstadt has also served as a board member of
American Heritage Girls.
Senate District 54 is one of nine open DFL seats.
Nebraska Legislative District 25
Nebraska is the only state in the country with a unicameral
As the owner of a small, local clothing business, Suszanne Geist is a vocal advocate of improving Nebraska’s
tax and business climate to foster growth. Geist brings valuable perspective on the challenges faced by
entrepreneurs, but as a political newcomer, she also presents fresh ideas and willingness to work with a wide
range of colleagues, regardless of ideology. Geist is also an active community volunteer through her service
with Clinic with a Heart, the American Heart Association and the Lincoln Berean Church. In the legislature,
Geist will work to improve education by supporting local control, keep taxes low by reducing wasteful
spending and develop infrastructure to build a better, safer Nebraska.
If elected, Geist will be the first Right Women, Right Now (RWRN) candidate elected in Nebraska since the
intiaitve launched in 2012, expanding the reach of FMP/RWRN to all 50 states.
Nevada Senate District 5
Nevada is one of the 23 Republican state trifectas where the GOP
controls the governor’s office and both legislative chambers.
Dr. Carrie Buck is a nationally recognized educator with a commitment to advancing academic standards in
Nevada. She currently serves as Executive Director of Pinecrest Academy, a public charter school with four
campuses. She began her career in education as an elementary school teacher for the Clark County School
District in 1996 and has been honored by both local and national organizations for her commitment to Nevada
students. Buck taught for several years before becoming an English-language learners (ELL) Specialist, mentor
teacher and Assistant Principal in 2001. In 2006, she was appointed principal of C.T. Sewell Elementary
School. When she first arrived, C.T. Sewell was a low performing school with even lower morale, but she
brought a clear vision and sincere passion to a failing school in need of reform. Under Buck’s leadership,
Sewell is a renewed campus, full of life, energy and academic success. In the state Senate, she will continue
to stand up for Nevada’s families, students and workers each day, fighting the bureaucracy that hampers
growth and progress.
Buck is running against incumbent Democrat Joyce Woodhouse.
Nevada Senate District 6
Republicans are defending a one-seat majority in the Nevada Senate.
Victoria Seaman made history in 2014 when she became the first Republican
Latina elected to the Nevada Legislature in state history. Quickly recognized
for her leadership skills, she was soon elected by her colleagues to serve as Assistant Majority Whip. Seaman
brings an impressive background of business and community outreach to the legislature. An entrepreneur,
Seaman contributed to Nevada’s thriving business economy by starting and managing two small businesses,
a local spa and manufactured a high-end esthetician product line. She was also an active volunteer through
her service with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, several local schools and the Central Christian Sumerlin
Campus children’s ministry. As a state Assemblywoman, Seaman was able to expand her community outreach
by holding district events and giving concerned citizens a platform to discuss community issues. In the
legislature, she fought for education reform and opposed higher taxes on Nevada’s families and employers,
proving that she will always do her best to uphold campaign promises. Her experiences in business, working
with her community and serving as an Assemblywoman have well prepared her to serve as an effective
and efficient representative for Senate District 6.
In 2012, Senator Dean Heller and Mitt Romney both carried this district.
New Mexico Senate District 37
In 2014, Governor Susana Martinez carried 32 of New Mexico’s 42
Ceil Levatino was first elected to the Las Cruces City Council in 2013, winning
decisively in a traditionally blue district. In that role, she has continually been a reliable voice for her district,
standing up against higher taxes and working tirelessly to make New Mexico a more business-friendly state.
Professionally, Levatino has worked as a nurse and most recently as a realtor in Las Cruces. Now she is
running a business-friendly campaign focused on bringing well-paying, middle-class jobs to southern New
Mexico. Levatino has been endorsed by the local newspaper, the Las Cruces Sun News, in her challenge to
incumbent Senator Bill Soules. Levatino will be a great partner in the legislature for Susana Martinez and
legislative Republicans who will continue to work on improving New Mexico’s business climate.
In 2014, six Republican candidates for statewide office carried Senate District 37.
New York Senate District 37
The New York Senate is the only chamber in the state controlled by
Republicans, with the Assembly and governor’s office held by Democrats.
A Rye City Councilwoman of four years, Deputy Mayor Julie Killian has a proven record as a true reformer.
Killian was part of the team who successfully negotiated fair union contracts after years of impasse, initiated
new conflict of interests forms and changes to ethics laws, and outsourced some of the city’s operations
to private professionals. Killian brings to the legislature a strong professional and academic background in
finance, which will make her an asset to the legislature. If elected, she has pleged to fight for policies that will
foster economic growth and provide tax relief for famlies and small businesses. Killian has also been vocal
about imposing term limits on Albany lawmakers, promoting prevention and treatment for drug abusers,
and advocating for the arts and the environment. Killian has been active in her community for 25 years as
a volunteer for local arts, historical and school organizations, and is the co-founder of the Rye Action for
Children and Teens, as well as a board member of the Kroc Institute for Peace at the University of Notre
Killian is running against two-term incumbent George Latimer.
North Carolina Senate District 45
Republicans have controlled the North Carolina Senate since 2010,
after securing the majority for the first time since Reconstruction.
North Carolina native Deanna Ballard has built a career based on dedicated service to others and a firm
foundation in conservative values. Ballard first became involved in politics as a volunteer for George W.
Bush’s Presidential Advance Team and ascended quickly through the ranks to become special assistant to the
president and director of scheduling and advance for First Lady Laura Bush. This position made her one of
the youngest female commissioned officers within the Bush administration. Previously, Ballard served as the
director of advance for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Deputy Director of
Advance for Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige. She currently serves as director of the Office of
the President/CEO for Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization headquartered in Boone
and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Ballard was appointed to represent Senate District 45 in April and she is running for her first full term.
Ohio House District 3
Ohio is one of 23 states with Republican state government trifectas.
A resident of Wood County for over 30 years, Theresa Gavarone has an
extensive background representing the community. Prior to being appointed
state representative earlier this year, Gavarone served on the Bowling Green
City Council where she chaired the Public Lands and Buildings Committee and served on the Finance and
Ways and Means Committee, the Planning, Zoning, and the Economic Development Committee. Gavarone is
an active community volunteer and is a member of Kiwanis, the Wood County Bar Association and the Ohio
State Bar Association. In addition to her public service, Gavarone is an attorney with Ruck & Wright Law and
the co-owner of local Bowling Green restaurant, with her husband of 24 years.
Theresa Gavarone is running for her first full term after being appointed to replace Tim Brown, who resigned
in July 2016.
South Carolina Senate District 11
Republicans currently enjoy a 28-18 majority in the South Carolina
Cornelius D. Huff was born and raised in Inman, SC, where he now serves as the city’s first African-American
mayor. Prior to being sworn in to this position in July 2014, he served on the City Council for 11 years. Huff has
lived in the Inman area his entire life and has always been passionate about giving back. He began volunteering
at the local Fire Department at age 11, a job he continues to serve in today, and has over 30 years of experience
as a paramedic. Huff currently serves on the Municipal Association of South Carolina Executive Board and also
on the Advisory Board for Rose Crest Community Residential Care.
Huff is challenging a 25-year incumbent Democrat in a district Mitt Romney carried in 2012.
Wyoming Senate District 8
Republicans currently hold a comfortable 26-4 supermajority in the
Affie Ellis is a small business owner and entrepreneur with a varied business portfolio and a diverse resume.
She is the owner of a public relations and consulting company and she and her husband also own a real
estate investment company that has invested in a popular local restaurant. Additionally, driven by her passion
for service and education, Ellis also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming. Prior to
joining Ellis Public Affairs, she defended Wyoming’s jobs, economy and environment as an Assistant Attorney
General for the State of Wyoming. A member of the Navajo Nation, she was appointed at the recommendation
of Sen. John Barrasso to the Tribal Law & Order Commission, which recommends administrative and
legislative actions to improve public safety on Indian lands. She is also a dedicated volunteer, serving on the
Wyoming Community Foundation Board of Directors, the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and
Clinic Advisory Board, Cheyenne Frontier Days, and is the co-chair of the American Bar Association Criminal
Justice Section Tribal Lands Subcommittee.
Ellis is challenging Democrat incumbent Floyd Esquibel, who won by a narrow margin in 2012.
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.