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This week is set to be a busy one for the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” campaign program.

In a sign that the NRCC intends to continue to expand the Republican playing field in 2010, party officials are set to name 14 new challenger and open-seat candidates who have reached the first rung of the committee’s three-tiered fundraising and infrastructure system.

Also, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) is set to announce the first group of candidates who have completed the necessary requirements to reach the program’s highest level and have earned the distinction of being called the GOP’s top House recruits of the 2010 cycle.

The Young Guns system ranks candidates in three levels: “On the Radar,” “Contender” and, finally, “Young Guns.” Candidates are named to the program by meeting individualized benchmarks set by the committee, which include developing grass-roots support, fundraising and creating a media plan. Those benchmarks become higher and more stringent with each level of the program.

Among the 14 GOP candidates who will be named to On the Radar status this week are South Dakota state Rep. Blake Curd, who is running against Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D); Oregon state Rep. Scott Bruun (R), who is challenging freshman Rep. Kurt Schrader (D); former West Virginia state Rep. David McKinley, who is taking on Rep. Alan Mollohan (D); former Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R), who is in a rematch with two-term Rep. Patrick Murphy (D); and Indiana state Rep. Jackie Walorski, who is challenging Rep. Joe Donnelly (D).

As those candidates move to On the Radar status, 11 current On the Radar candidates will be moving to the Contender tier this week. Those GOP recruits include auto dealer Scott Rigell in Virginia’s 2nd district, businessman Jon Barela in New Mexico’s 1st district, businessman Bob Dold in Illinois’ 10th district and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier in Colorado’s 7th district.

Not all of the candidates that the NRCC is promoting have clear shots at their party’s nomination — some in fact are in reasonably competitive primaries.

Meanwhile, Republican insiders are keeping a tight lid on which and how many recruits will be named to Young Guns status by Sessions this week, but a few seem obvious.

Not counting the additions that will be made this week, the committee currently has 15 candidates who have achieved Contender status, and within that group a few recruits had standout fundraising quarters, according to recently filed Federal Election Commission reports.

Maryland state Sen. Andy Harris (R), who is in a rematch with freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil (D) in the Eastern Shore-based 1st district, out-raised the Congressman by more than $30,000 during the last three months of 2009.

In New Mexico’s 2nd district, former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) out-raised his successor, freshman Rep. Harry Teague (D), by more than $60,000 during the fourth quarter.

And in Florida’s 22nd district, veteran Allen West (R) out-raised sophomore Rep. Ron Klein (D) by more than $330,000.

The Young Guns program was originally created by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Reps. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) during the 2008 cycle. Last year, Sessions adopted it as one of the NRCC’s marquee candidate-development tools.

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