2021 Emerging Leaders

Washington, DC – Today, GOPAC announced the twenty-four legislators in its 2021 class of Emerging Leaders. Nominated by the legislative leadership in their state, these legislators have demonstrated promise in positively impacting their state and rising within the Republican ranks.

“As Americans are seeking solutions to the issues our communities face, our 2021 class of Emerging Leaders has an excellent opportunity to advance ideas to make the lives of their constituents easier, safer, and better,” said GOPAC Chairman David Avella. “We welcome being part of their development and doing our part to support their success.” 

The prestigious GOPAC Emerging Leaders Program is a year-long initiative to educate the next generation of Republican legislators. The Program equips these legislators with information to help legislate more effectively and ultimately achieve leadership roles within their state or run for higher office.

Emerging Leaders Class of 2021:

Barb Kirkmeyer

Colorado Senator

Barbara Kirkmeyer is a 4th generation Coloradoan who has lived in southern Weld County for over 35 years. Prior to serving as a county commissioner, she co-owned and operated a dairy farm, was a small business owner for 15 years, and served in Governor Owens’ cabinet as the acting executive director of the Department of Local Affairs. Kirkmeyer graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in physical education. Both her daughters graduated from Weld County schools and live with their families in southern Weld County. When not involved in county-related business, Kirkmeyer enjoys volunteering and spending time with her family including her six grandsons.

Justin Busch

Indiana Senator

Justin Busch was elected to the Indiana State Senate in 2018. He attended Carroll High School and later earned his B.A. in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication and B.A. in History from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He is an immediate past President of the Indiana University Alumni Association, Northeast Indiana Chapter, Brightpoint Board Member, and Lifetime Member of the NRA. He previously worked as the Northeast Indiana Director for U.S. Senator Todd Young and is the Godparent to his beloved nephews, Tommy and Jack.

Max Wise

Kentucky Senator

Max Wise represents the 16th District of Kentucky and is the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education. Senator Wise also serves as a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Agriculture; Health and Welfare; and Transportation. Additionally, he is the chairman of the Education and Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee and a liaison member of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Education. Senator Wise teaches graduate level courses in terrorism studies, intelligence, and intelligence analysis at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. Senator Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Campbellsville University. He earned his Master of Arts in International Politics and National Security at the University of Kentucky Patterson School. He also holds an Advanced Certificate in Homeland Security from the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University. Senator Wise lives in Campbellsville with his wife, Dr. Heather Wise, a pediatric dentist, and their four children.

Kim LaSata

Michigan Senator

Kim LaSata chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Universities and Community Colleges. Prior to joining the state Senate, LaSata served one term in the state House of Representatives from 2017-2018. Before serving in the Legislature, LaSata was a schoolteacher in the Lake Michigan Catholic School system, her alma mater. She was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2015. She has also served in several community organizations, including as past president of Berrien County Guardianship Services Inc., Women’s’ Service League, Capstone Center and as vice-chair of Child and Family Services. The senator holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master’s in Literacy Studies from Western Michigan University. She and her husband Charlie, and their four children, live in Bainbridge Township.

Andrew Lang

Minnesota Senator

Andrew Lang represents Senate District 17, a district in Southwestern Minnesota comprised of four counties and encompassing eighty thousand constituents. He is currently in his second term. Senator Lang committee assignments include Ag Finance, Ag Policy, Environment Policy and Legacy, Environment Finance, Transportation Policy and Finance. He serves on the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the State’s Emergency Medical Services Regularity Board. Senator Lang was recently named Chair of the Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy. Senator Lang is a 19-year veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard. Senator Lang has served in many leadership positions at the Company, Battalion, and Brigade levels. He has held several command positions and recently took command of C Company 2-211th MEDEVAC. He has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve during two visits to the Middle East. Senator Lang’s primary duty is Blackhawk helicopter Pilot. Senator Lang is currently employed on the civilian side as an Air Ambulance Helicopter Pilot. He is married to his wife Susan and together they have two sons.

Deanna Ballard

North Carolina Senator

Deanna Ballard is a native of North Carolina who has built a career based on dedicated service to others and a firm foundation in conservative values. She currently serves as Director of Public Policy for Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization headquartered in Boone. Prior to that she served as Director of the Office of the President/CEO where her work included directing financial, administrative, and operational activities and relationships on behalf of the president/CEO, Franklin Graham, in order to coordinate complex humanitarian and ministry efforts across multiple offices around the world. As a member of the North Carolina State Senate, Deanna has worked diligently to represent her constituents while serving as Chairwoman on the Committees on Education/Higher Education Appropriations, Education/Higher Education Policy, and Pensions. She also serves as a member on Health Care, Health Care Appropriations, Government Operations, Finance, Nominations Appropriations/Base Budget and Rules/Operations of the Senate. Deanna first became involved in political service as a volunteer for George W. Bush’s Presidential Advance Team and quickly rose through the ranks to become Special Assistant to the President and Director of Scheduling and Advance for the First Lady—making her one of the youngest female commissioned officers within the Bush administration.

Dave Craven

North Carolina Senator

Dave Craven is a member of the North Carolina State Senate representing District 26. He was appointed to the state legislature by Governor Roy Cooper to fill a vacancy. He was also selected to serve as the Republican Party’s nominee in the general election for the District 26 seat. At the time of his appointment to the North Carolina State Senate, Craven was a Vice President of Business Development at Fidelity Bank. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Todd Johnson

North Carolina Senator

Todd Johnson was elected to the North Carolina Senate in the November 2018 election. Todd is a conservative businessman, family man, and public servant who kept his word and established a solid conservative record as a County Commissioner of North Carolina’s 10th most populous county from 2010-2014. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Management and Society from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000, Johnson has helped grow his family’s insurance business into a regionally recognized leader in insurance product selection, service innovation, and total quality management. He is the President of Johnson Insurance Management, which was founded in 1991 and has expanded to eight locations along the Highway 74 corridor in North Carolina. An education advocate and community leader, Johnson also serves on the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges, the Jesse Helms Center Board, the Monroe-Union County Economic Development Board, the Board of the Union County 4H Foundation, and is a member of the Monroe Rotary Club. Johnson is married to the former Amanda Harrington of Polkton, North Carolina. They have two sons. The Johnsons attend Lee Park Baptist Church in Monroe.

Kristin Roers

North Dakota Senator

Kristin Roers was elected in 2018 to represent District 27, located in Fargo, ND. She has been a Registered Nurse since 2004 and works in Nursing Administration when not in the legislature. Kristin serves as the Vice Chair of the Human Services committee and as a member on the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee. During the Interim, she served as Vice Chair of the Healthcare Committee, as well as serving on the Employee Benefits and Government Administration Committees. She is the Senate appointee to the Committee on Protection and Advocacy and sits on the State Health Council.

Mike Testa

New Jersey Senator

On Mike Testa’s father’s side, his great-grandparents emigrated from Italy to secure a better future for their children and themselves. On his mother’s side, his grandparents were Polish Jews who met in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and were rescued by Allied soldiers. Senator Testa is a graduate of Villanova University School of Law and received his Master’s at Temple University Beasley School of Law. He and his wife Julie live in Vineland with their three children, Eva Marie, Sarah, and Tripp. At age 26, Sen. Testa was named Board Chairman of the Vineland Downtown Improvement District/Main Street Vineland. He is a proud member of the Greater Vineland Chapter of the NAACP, and Past Chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland and Salem counties. As the incredibly proud father of two little girls, Sen. Testa has been the Board President of the Vineland Regional Dance company for several years, and was the 2016 recipient of the South Jersey Cultural Alliance Paul Aiken Encore Award for his dedication to the arts in South Jersey.

Julian Bradley

Wisconsin Senator

In November 2020, Julian Bradley was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate to represent the 28th District, which includes parts of Milwaukee, Racine, Walworth, and Waukesha counties. Raised in Wisconsin, Julian graduated from Central High School in La Crosse. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse with a degree in political science and economics. Julian worked as a telecommunications manager for Century Link from 2002 to 2019 and worked as an operations manager for Northwestern Mutual from 2019 to 2020. He currently resides in Franklin, Wisconsin. In his first term, Senator Bradley will be utilizing his private sector experience by serving as chairman of the Senate Committee on Utilities, Technology, and Telecommunications and as a member of the Joint Committee on the Review of Administrative Rules. An avid sports fan, and former pro-wrestler, Julian has been a long-time grassroots activist in the Republican Party, having been elected as a county chairman and to the Republican Party of Wisconsin executive committee. Julian likes to give back to the community by volunteering in his free time, especially focusing on career readiness and youth literacy.

Demi Cabrera

Florida Representative

Demi Cabrera is married to Kevin Marino Cabrera. She is the daughter and sister of former and current law enforcement officers and is also the daughter and granddaughter of small business owners. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee. Her professional experience includes serving as the Director of Development for ADE, Chief of Staff in the Office of Senator Anitere Flores in the Florida Senate, and as the Statewide Coordinator for the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms in the Senate Page Program for High School Students. She previously also served as an Intern in the Homicide Division of the Office of the State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit and as a Legislative Intern in the Florida Senate, District 27.

Tom Demmer

Illinois Representative

Tom Demmer is State Representative for the 90th District in the Illinois House of Representatives. Tom is Deputy Minority Leader in the House of Representatives and is the chief budget negotiator and healthcare policy leader for the House Republican Caucus. He is a strong voice for transparency, reform, and fiscal responsibility, and is a member of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. He was elected to the House in 2012 after having served three years on the Lee County Board. Tom Demmer is Director of Innovation & Strategy at KSB Hospital, a not-for-profit community hospital with locations in Lee and Ogle Counties. Tom graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in communications and was a White House Intern in domestic policy for the Office of the Vice President of the United States in 2006. Tom is a Henry W. Toll Fellow with the Council of State Governments. He served on the Board of Directors of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Preservation Foundation. Tom was born and raised in Dixon, Illinois, and lives there today with his wife Rebecca and daughter Katherine.

Ethan Manning

Indiana Representative

Ethan Manning serves the people of House District 23 in Miami, Cass, and Fulton Counties in North Central Indiana. He was first elected in 2018 and reelected in 2020. He currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of the House Utilities, Energy, and Telecommunications Committee. He is also a member of the Elections and Apportionment Committee and the Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee. Previously he served on the Public Health and Agriculture and Rural Development Committees. He is also a member of the statutorily created 21st Century Indiana Energy Policy Development Task Force. Prior to serving as State Representative, Ethan was President of the Miami County Council, where he served for 4 years. He was also appointed by then-Governor Mike Pence to the Indiana State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers where he served from 2015-2019. He served as Chairman of the Miami County Republican Party from 2013-2021 and on the Indiana Republican State Committee from 2017-2021. He was a presidential elector in 2016. In the private sector, Ethan works as a real estate broker and auctioneer. He also is involved in the operation of his family farm, Manning Cattle Company.

Larry Frieman

Louisiana Representative

Larry Frieman practiced as a physical therapist in orthopedics and sports medicine for seven years prior to beginning his practice of law. He has been practicing as a defense attorney for the past 28 years in the area of workers’ compensation, auto, and premises liability. He has served as an ad hoc workers’ compensation judge in District 1W and as an ad hoc judge in First City Court in New Orleans. He served two terms on the St. Tammany Republican Party Executive Committee where he has served as the Chairman for two years. Larry was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, District 74, in October 2019 representing St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes. He sits on the Labor & Industrial Relations, Civil Law & Procedure, and Insurance Committees. He is a member of the Louisiana Republican Legislative Delegation, Northshore Delegation, and Louisiana Rural Caucus. When not practicing law, Larry enjoys hunting and fishing.

Andrew Fink

Michigan Representative

Andrew Fink was born and raised in Michigan, the second of six children. He graduated from Hillsdale College in 2006 after receiving the Jeanne E. Bray Memorial Scholarship from the National Rifle Association, and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2010. After working in the career planning office at Hillsdale College, Andrew went on active duty as a Marine Corps officer in January 2011, serving as a judge advocate for Marines and their families. In 2014, he and his wife Lauren returned home to Michigan to raise their family and work in private practice, and in 2017 Andrew opened a law office in Hillsdale. Andrew was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2020, and represents the 58th District which includes all of Branch and Hillsdale counties. Andrew and Lauren have five children.

Destin Hall

North Carolina Representative

Representative Destin Hall is currently serving his second term as the Representative for North Carolina House District 87. He has been a general practicing attorney representing clients across North Carolina since 2014. Representative Hall was the Majority Freshman Leader for the House in the 2017-2018 legislative session. He is currently a Chairman or Vice Chairman of the Elections and Ethics Law Committee, Redistricting Committee, Criminal Matters Committee, Judiciary Committee, and the Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting.

Steve Bashore

Oklahoma Representative

Steve Bashore is a conservative business leader, serving previously as general manager of Buffalo Run Casino & Resort. There he led hundreds of employees and oversaw numerous high-profile sporting events and concerts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars to positively impact the economy of his House district and the state. He also led employee efforts that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and countless hours of service to his House district. Bashore also is credited with reviving a struggling Oklahoma Boxing Commission as its executive director, and he helped bring mixed-martial arts to Oklahoma on a professional level. Now a nationally recognized expert on sports management, Bashore holds both a master’s of business administration degree (MBA) and a master’s degree in education in sport administration.

Brent Howard

Oklahoma Senator

Brent Howard serves the people of six counties in southwest Oklahoma as State Senator for District 38. In the Senate, he serves as Vice Chair of the Finance Committee and is a member of the Agriculture and General Government Committees. Brent also serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee for Appropriations and Budget for Public Safety and the Judiciary and has significant input as to these agencies’ budget, which account for about 1/8th of the State appropriated budget. At the Capitol, Brent is the is also often used as legal advisor to other Senators on their legislation and serves as the chief Presiding Officer over the Senate chamber. Brent is the fifth generation on the same farmland homesteaded by his great-great-grandfather before Oklahoma statehood. He is a graduate of rural Navajo High School, Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and New York University School of Law. Brent has his own law practice in Altus and is involved in his family’s wheat and cattle operation. Brent’s legal practice focuses on assisting families as they plan for the future by helping farmers, ranchers and others navigate the complicated fields of tax law and estate planning. He also prepares about 130 income tax returns during the spring season, while in legislative session.

Natalie Mihalek

Pennsylvania Representative

Natalie Mihalek was elected in 2018 to serve the citizens of the 40th Legislative District. Upon graduating from South Allegheny High School, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where she qualified and served in the Navy’s elite nuclear power program, of which only 1 percent of the sailors admitted are women. After her military service, she returned to Allegheny County where she attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning bachelor’s and law degrees before beginning her legal career in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. There, she worked closely with crime victims and police to prosecute criminal cases and put violent offenders behind bars. In addition to her work in criminal justice, Mihalek also owned a successful small business in Upper St. Clair and was working for a large financial institution at the time of her election.

Shelby Slawson

Texas Representative

First elected in 2020, Shelby Slawson serves an eight-county rural district in the Heart of Texas and is honored as a freshman legislator to receive appointments to three prestigious and influential committees: State Affairs, Calendars, and Pensions, Investments & Financial Services. Raised by God-fearing parents who modeled hard work and fiscal restraint under tight budgets, Shelby grew up working jobs in fast food, retail, nursing home care, and waitressing. She would go on to become a first-generation college graduate, earning her B.A. from the University of Texas at Dallas and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. Recognized as a dynamic, effective, and influential leader, Shelby is a frequent member in public and private entities addressing important issues including economic development, taxation, land/facilities planning, annexation, and education. Professionally, Shelby is an attorney, entrepreneur, and executive in successful small businesses in her hometown of Stephenville, where the Slawsons are members of First Baptist Church.

Amanda Batten

Virginia Representative

Elected in 2019, Delegate Batten is a member of the House Education Committee and the House Public Prior to her election, she worked as a legislative aide for members of Virginia’s General Assembly. She also serves on the Aerospace Advisory Council. Previously, Amanda served on the board of the Thomas Nelson Community College Educational Foundation and as president of the Providence Classical School Board. A graduate of Ashford University, Amanda has also completed the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Political Leaders Program and the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance’s LEAD Historic Triangle program. Amanda has been active in Hampton Roads politics for more than ten years, and she currently serves as Eastern Vice Chairwoman of the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia. Amanda resides in Toano with her husband, Rick.

Tony Kurtz

Wisconsin Representative

While still a senior in high school, Tony Kurtz applied for and was accepted into the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Flight Training Program, which he began less than a month after his graduation. Tony retired from the U.S. Army in August of 2005 with 20 years of active Federal service. Tony earned his Bachelors of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1989 and his Master of Science in International Relations from Troy State University in 1997. After retirement from the military, Tony started Kaynick Solutions LLC; teaching military units accident investigation and safety program management. In 2006, Tony bought a small farm, in Wonewoc, Wisconsin with the purpose of growing organic row crops. Tony was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2018 and serves on the following committees: Assembly Committee on Agriculture, Assembly Committee on Corrections, Assembly Committee on Environment, Assembly Committee on Health (Vice-Chair), Assembly Committee on Rural Development, and Assembly Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs.

Dianna Graves

West Virginia Delegate

As a lifelong aficionado of all things political, it only stands to reason that I would end up in the thick of where politics and public policy collide – my state legislature. I believe in the benefits of a stable, prosperous economy and that the best way to achieve it is to get out of the way of private citizens and business. New taxes and burdensome regulation strangle opportunity, and opportunity is how we move forward as a state and a nation. I represent District 38 in the great state of West Virginia, a state with a proud history and an increasingly bright future. After graduating from Stanford University in 2002 with a B.A. in Political Science, I attended West Virginia State University to achieve my accounting concentration and have worked in the private sector as an accountant and auditor for many years.

Chris Gildon

Washington Representative

Senator Chris Gildon first won election to the Washington State House of Representatives in 2018 and was elected to the State Senate in 2020. He represents the 25th Legislative District which includes Puyallup, South Hill, Fife, Summit-Waller, and part of Parkland. Chris has proven leadership experience — not only as a 23-year veteran Army Officer with five overseas deployments and two bronze star medals — but also as a legislator who earned a reputation as being a calm voice of reason in Olympia. Chris serves on the Senate’s Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Committee; Housing and Local Government Committee; Rules Committee; and its budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. He is also the Senate Republican deputy floor leader. Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from Webster University and a master of strategic security studies from the National Defense University. Chris lives in Puyallup with his wife, Autumn. They have been married 28 years and have two adult children.