The National Republican Congressional Committee announced Wednesday that it is promoting 17 U.S. House candidates to "Contender" status, the second tier of its "Young Guns" program to help top House challengers and open seat candidates.

The slate includes several 2012 candidates who are back for another run in top GOP pickup opportunities. They include retired Air Force colonel Martha McSally (R), challenger to Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), who narrowly defeated her in 2012; former congressman Bob Dold (R), who lost by a very slim margin to Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.); Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R), who is in the driver's seat in the race for retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson's seat in Utah's 4th district; and former congressman Bobby Schilling (R), who lost to Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and is running against her again.

The list includes three candidates in California's 7th district, where vulnerable Rep. Ami Bera (D) is running. California has an all-party primary in which the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

The NRCC also gave former city councilman Carl DeMaio (R) "Contender" status. DeMaio, who is openly gay, is running against Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).

"These impressive Republican candidates that have reached the ‘Contender’ status are exemplary of the new leadership needed in Washington D.C. to turn our country around and provide a check and balance in Washington," said NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.). "I am confident that these candidates will continue to work hard for their communities and bring sound, conservative principles to Congress."

House Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to win control of the majority, a task that looks all but impossible right now.

Below is the full list of "Contenders."

French Hill (AR-02)
Martha McSally (AZ-02)
Dan Logue (CA-03)
Doug Ose (CA-07)
Elizabeth Emken (CA-07)
Igor Birman (CA-07)
Brian Nestande (CA-36)
Mimi Walters (CA-45)
Carl DeMaio (CA-52)
Bob Dold (IL-10)
Darlene Senger (IL-11)
Mike Bost (IL-12)
Bobby Schilling (IL-17)
Richard Tisei (MA-06)
Stewart Mills (MN-08)
Mia Love (UT-04)
Evan Jenkins (WV-03)

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.