Party Drafts Political Newcomers as Candidates in a Bid to Capitalize on Voters' Anti-Incumbent, Anti-Washington Mood Seeking to tap into growing anti-establishment discord among voters, the Republican Party is actively seeking candidates who have never before held elected office.
Bruce O'Donoghue owns a company that makes traffic-light systems; he is challenging Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson. Jon Runyan, a former player for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers, is running in southern New Jersey.
"My roots run deep in Tennessee, not politics," reads the banner across the campaign Web site of Stephen Fincher, a Tennessee farmer and gospel singer heavily wooed by Washington Republicans to run this year.
Such Republicans are contesting six of the 20 most competitive House seats currently held by Democrats.
Running political newcomers is a proven strategy when the political tide swings drastically toward one side, and at times when voters have soured on Washington in general. In 1994, when Republicans won a majority of House seats after four decades in the minority, 55% of the party's 73 freshmen lawmakers had never held political office. The strategy could help Republicans tap into enthusiasm generated among Tea Party groups and other conservatives. Though these activists have sprung from the right, they remain antagonistic toward the GOP establishment. The movement arose in part as a backlash against the government's intervention in Wall Street and the auto industry, as well as opposition to Democratic initiatives, including a health-care overhaul.