Southerland has four daughters and met his wife, Susan, in the first grade.
“I came to Congress and fell deeper in love with my wife,” he said. “I miss her. She’s my best friend.”
Southerland’s predecessor, Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd, a seven-term incumbent, had never had a close call. But he supported the 2010 health care overhaul as he was fending off a primary challenge. The National Republican Congressional Committee poured money into Southerland’s campaign.
Democrats answered, spending $338,000 to assist Boyd, but Southerland — a former Democrat, like many Panhandle Republicans — rode the GOP’s national momentum to a 13-point victory.
Southerland attributes his familiarity with his constituents to aiding his win.
“One of the things that the funeral business has done is that it has allowed me to know every area and every sector of my community,” he said. “I bury fishermen, I bury Wall Street tycoons. We serve families in all walks of life. Loggers, fishermen, oystermen, accountants, attorneys, brokers — it doesn’t matter. You’re coming to a funeral home.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.