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Senate Conservatives Fund endorses five House challengers, as it tries to expand influence

File photo: West Virginia congressional candidate Alex Mooney (James M. Thresher/The Washington Post)

The Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed five U.S. House challengers Tuesday as it looked to expand its influence on the landscape of lower chamber races.

The most notable endorsement is in Idaho's 2nd district, where Rep. Mike Simpson (R) faces a challenge from attorney Bryan Smith, who is backed by the Club for Growth and now, the Senate Conservatives Fund. The race has emerged as a key battleground in business vs. tea party fight this election cycle.

The organization threw its support behind four other Republicans running in open House races featuring contested GOP primaries. They are: surgeon Chad Mathis, who is running for the seat of retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.); state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, who is vying for the seat of Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a U.S. Senate candidate; Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who is running for the seat of retiring Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa); and former Maryland GOP chair Alex Mooney, who is running for the seat of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a  Senate candidate.

It's the first time Senate Conservatives Fund has thrown its support behind House challengers. The moves are part of the group's House Conservatives Project, an initiative launched last year. Before Tuesday, the only House candidate the group was supporting was Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), according to its Web site. Senate Conservatives Fund has a reputation for irking establishment Republicans and incumbents by backing insurgent challengers.

Senate Conservatives Fund was started by Jim DeMint during his days as a U.S. senator. (DeMint currently heads the Heritage Foundation.) It's now run by Matt Hoskins, a former DeMint aide.