The 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicks off in five days and is shaping up as a who’s who of Republican conservatives. After facing a post-election identity crisis following a November trouncing at the polls, this year’s conference theme is looking ahead—“America’s Future: The Next Generation Of Conservatives.” Dividing the GOP’s recent past from the future might not be a bad thing for conservatives considering a recent Gallup poll that shows only 28% of those surveyed identify themselves as Republicans.
Big names like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump are set to speak at the conference, but there were several notable snubs on the invite list. Once known as conservative darlings of the Republican Party, Govs. Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell were not invited to participate in the event.
So who are some of those conservatives that will help shape the future of the GOP? In honor of the 40th anniversary of CPAC, the conservative conference is highlighting those who were born around the time CPAC was first started.
“We are thrilled to welcome these young elected leaders to the CPAC stage,” said American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas in a statement, “as they represent the bright future of the conservative movement.”
Here are our top five CPAC 2013 “bright future of the conservative movement” ones to watch:
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford—At just 33-years-old, Weatherford is following the footsteps of Sen. Marco Rubio in serving as one of the youngest House speakers in Florida’s history. The ACU named Weatherford a “Conservative All-Star” in 2012 for scoring 100% on the organization’s legislative ratings. Weatherford has been a vocal critic of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s move to expand Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act—even after realizing that his own family once benefited from the program in paying their medical bills.
Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon—Speaker Shannon is the first African-American Republican to be a state speaker in Oklahoma, and the youngest speaker in the state’s history. After being asked to speak at CPAC Shannon said, “I’m humbled to have been asked to participate in this conference, but mostly, I’m excited to highlight the conservative pro-growth agenda we’re pursuing in the Oklahoma Legislature this year.”
Sarasota Springs Mayor Mia Love—Sarasota Springs Mayor Love, of Utah, made her way onto the national scene after being tapped for a high-profile speaking slot during the Republican National Convention in 2012. Love, a Mormon and first-generation U.S. citizen whose family is from Haiti, lost a tight race for Congress in 2012. At the National Review Summit in Washington in January she said, “We need to remind everyone that the GOP was originally formed to end slavery…We’re trying to end slavery from the federal government.”
Connecticut State Senator Art Linares—Prior to becoming state senator, Art Linares co-founded a Middletown-based commercial solar energy company. In 2010, he took a sabbatical from his company to work for Sen. Marco Rubio, another CPAC speaker this year. He later returned to Connecticut to run for state Senate where he won in a tight race last fall.
New York state Rep. Nicole Malliotakis—Malliotakis is a rising star in the world of conservative New York politics. She is the daughter of immigrants—her father is from Greece, her mother from Cuba. She was the first Hispanic lawmaker to represent New York City’s Staten Island.
Another notable speaker at CPAC 2013 is U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, R-Wis., and his wife and fellow conservative activist Rachel Campos-Duffy, who will host a “Real World” conversation about current events in order to attract the younger generation towards the conservative conference.