Politics & Government

Time calls Nunes one of '40 under 40' politicians to watch

Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA). April 2008
Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA). April 2008 Rafael Suanes/MCT

WASHINGTON — Time magazine is elevating Rep. Devin Nunes, naming the Visalia Republican a "rising star" and one of the nation's 40 top young political leaders.

In its new edition being published Friday, the venerable weekly magazine designates the 37-year-old Nunes as one of the "40 under 40" who merit watching on the national stage. The 40 selected individuals are each "trying to fix a broken system," according to Time.

"This 37-year-old farm boy from the San Joaquin Valley may have ambitions beyond California's 21st Congressional District," the magazine's mini-profile states.

Nunes is the only California member of Congress to make the list, which has already given him an instant public relations boost. On Thursday, he appeared on several Fresno-area television shows, and he was to attend a magazine reception at Washington's Donovan Hotel in the evening.

"It's a great honor to be recognized," Nunes said Thursday morning, adding, "It's a great recognition for the San Joaquin Valley."

Also named to the list from California is Damon Dunn, a Stanford graduate and former football player now running as a Republican for secretary of state.

Time identifies Nunes as Number 18 on the list of 40, although the magazine does not spell out its ranking methodology. The magazine does not spell out detailed reasons for its selection, and its two-sentence discussion of his record is largely limited to his support from tea party activists and his denunciation of Democrats' "totalitarian tactics."

The magazine does not include rebuttal from people with whom Nunes has clashed, including congressional Democrats and those he customarily calls "radical environmentalists."

"I've never even talked to a reporter from Time," Nunes said.

Like the other designated young leaders, Nunes was given a handful of written questions for which he submitted answers. These include the identity of his political heroes — Nunes said he is inspired by the Founding Fathers — as well as what he expects to be doing in five years.

"The problems that face our country are so critical right now that I have to focus on them, not my career five years from now," Nunes told the magazine.

Nunes elaborated in an interview Thursday that his professional prospects could be shaped by what happens in next month's congressional election. His own re-election is reassured, and his fellow Republicans are thought by many to be poised to reclaim control of the House of Representatives.

First elected in 2002, Nunes is currently ranked eighth in seniority out of 15 Republicans now on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Republican control could move him into a subcommittee chairmanship or perhaps another position of stature.

"If we get the majority back, I'll be in a very good position," Nunes said.

With a circulation of 3.3 million, Time's imprimatur still has the potential to propel national careers. At the same time, its national reach has been shrinking. The magazine's circulation has fallen by 17 percent since 2000. Single copy sales fell even more dramatically, declining 34 percent in the last half of 2009 compared to 2008.

As it struggles to hold onto readers, Time is frequently using "best of" type lists that have recently included "Top 10 Celebrity Relationship Flameouts," "Top 10 Bandits" and "Top 10 Famous Volcanoes."