EXCLUSIVE: An influential conservative political group has started getting involved in elections earlier than ever, endorsing conservatives in primaries rather than waiting to support whoever wins the GOP primary.
Americans For Prosperity’s grassroots election arm (AFP Action) announced its first slate of Senate and governor endorsements Tuesday, following an impressive $70 million in fundraising and a first round of House endorsements in key races across the nation.
The goal, according to AFP Action director Nathan Nascimento, is to back quality candidates early to ensure better choices for voters in the general election at every level of elected office.
‘The last three election cycles have made it clear that if we want better policies from Washington, we need better candidates who can lead our country forward,’ Nascimento told Fox News Digital in a statement.
The engagement in primary battles is new for AFP Action, and Nascimento said the effort will be paired with ‘unmatched data capabilities to bring new voters into the political process.’
‘We are ready to deploy the strongest and most effective grassroots army in the country to change the outcome of critical races and elect champions for policies that will empower Americans.’
With the 2024 Senate map favoring the GOP — due to the sheer number of Democrats defending seats in Republican-leaning and swing states — the first round of Senate endorsements from AFP Action includes three Republicans in crucial races.
AFP endorsed Sam Brown for the Nevada Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jacky Rosen. Brown attempted to run for Senate in the 2022 midterms against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, but lost the GOP primary to Adam Laxalt — who had secured with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Laxalt lost to Masto in November by less than 8,000 votes.
Nebraska Sen. Pete Ricketts — who is running in a special election to fill the remainder of former Sen. Ben Sasse’s term — also will get AFP’s support. Ricketts has one declared GOP challenger in former Rep. John Glen Weaver — whose campaign hasn’t gathered much steam yet. Weaver told Nebraska Public Media that he had not yet raised $5,000 in his campaign, but would increase fundraising in the third quarter.
The third initial endorsement is for Dave McCormick, who has not yet formally announced a Senate campaign against Democratic Sen. John Casey in Pennsylvania. McCormick narrowly lost the GOP primary in 2022 to Mehmet Oz — the physician and former TV show host who earned Trump’s endorsement and later lost the general election to now-Sen. John Fetterman.
Trump took a lot of blame for costing the GOP the Senate in 2022, despite Republicans winning a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.
In the closest-watched Senate races during what many pundits predicted would be a ‘red wave’ election, several candidates hand-picked by Trump failed to win the general election. Along with Oz and Laxalt, Georgia Republican candidate Scott Walker, a former University of Georgia football coach who handily won the GOP primary after Trump encouraged him to run, went down in defeat.
Trump deflected blame for the losing candidates from himself and argued Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell undercut, and underfunded, his candidates. Trump also blamed abortion — which Democrats made an election issue following the overturn of Roe v. Wade — for Republican losses.
AFP is also endorsing Mike Braun for governor of Indiana and Patrick Morrisey for West Virginia governor.
In a February memo, AFP CEO Emily Seidel highlighted two takeaways from the 2022 midterms: The Republican Party was nominating bad candidates, and the Democrats were taking advantage of it.
According to Seidel, ‘the loudest voice in each political party sets the tone for the entire election. In a presidential year, that’s the presidential candidate.’
Though AFP hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the GOP primary, the group promised in February to support a nominee ‘who can lead our country forward, and who can win.’
AFP was founded and financed by Kansas-based billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, known as the Koch brothers.
David Koch stepped away from involvement in AFP ahead of his death in 2019.