First the retired Air Force colonel was "on the radar." Then she became a "contender." Now Martha McSally is a "young gun."

Mixed metaphors aside, the Congressional District 2 candidate is receiving a top honor from the highest tiers of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

McSally is one of 10 candidates nationally to be given the "young gun" designation by the NRCC today.

The title is bestowed to candidates who have built "a formidable campaign structure and achieve important goals and benchmarks," according to an NRCC press release.

“Candidates that reach ‘young gun’ status have met a series of rigorous goals that will put them in a position to win on Election Day,” said NRCC Chairman Greg Walden. "These 10 candidates have outlined conservative principles that will grow jobs, stop the harmful effects of Obamacare, and get Washington’s spending under control. I am confident that these candidates will continue to advocate for hardworking families in their respective districts through the November elections.”

A call to the McSally campaign was not immediately returned.

At least one of the NRCC's metrics — campaign donations — might explain why McSally has advanced to “young gun” status.

McSally has $847,142 cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission. 

Democrats were quick to label the designation as a sign McSally was beholden to the Republican leadership in Congress and special interest groups. 

“It’s no surprise that Republicans in Congress are clamoring for Martha McSally to join their club: she has pledged to prop up their out-of-touch agenda that stacks the deck for special interests at the expense of Arizona’s middle class families,” said Josh Schwerin of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In terms of the three-tiered "young gun" program, there are four other Arizona candidates:

• Andy Tobin CD1

• Gary Kiehne CD1

• Andrew Walter CD9

Wendy Rogers CD9

All four candidates (still in the first tier of the NRCC's program) are all in competitive primaries, whereas most of the "young guns" are either the sole Republican candidate or are the clear front-runners in their primaries. 

While not the sole Republican running in CD2, McSally is familiar to many area voters, losing to Rep. Ron Barber in a close race in 2012. Even Barber has called McSally a "likely" opponent in recent speeches and statements to the press.

In an interview back in March, Daniel Scarpinato with the NRCC said they don’t take sides in primaries with strong candidates.

“NRCC’s Young Guns program allows us to work with all Republican campaigns and ensure the eventual nominee is prepared to take on the Democrats in November,” Scarpinato said.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson