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Vote Now: Where Should Roll Call Travel for the Midterm Elections?

Two Freshmen to Watch in the Class of 2012

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Republican Chris Stewart in Utah and Democrat Joyce Beatty (above) in Ohio won their nominations and can already be planning their first few weeks in Congress. And both, Stuart Rothenberg writes, have the potential to be independent thinkers and challenge their parties’ ideological norms.

In a political world increasingly populated by candidates who seem angry at the political opposition and promise to toe their party’s ideological line, two open-seat candidates I met recently cut interesting profiles.

While most members of the class of 2012 still have to prove their mettle in November, Joyce Beatty (D) in Ohio and Chris Stewart (R) in Utah, who come from rock-solid safe districts, can already be planning their first few weeks in Congress.

By most measures, Beatty, 62, and Stewart, 53, have nothing in common. But both became de facto Members of the next Congress by winning their party’s nominations, and both seem to have the potential to be a little different from the rest of their colleagues. Still, we will see how they perform when they get to Capitol Hill.

Beatty served a little more than four full terms in the Ohio House, including a time as Minority Leader. She initially was appointed to the Legislature to replace her husband when he resigned his seat in 1999 after serving for almost two decades.

Beatty had never served in office before her appointment to the Ohio House, though she was in the process of running for a seat on the Columbus City Council when she was appointed.

After her service in the Legislature, Beatty became senior vice president of outreach and engagement at Ohio State University. Her $320,000 salary raised eyebrows because that figure was greater than that earned by the state’s chancellor for higher education and the president of Cleveland State University.

The future Congresswoman announced in January of this year that she was leaving her job at OSU to run full time for Ohio’s new 3rd district, a Democratic seat created by the GOP-controlled Legislature to solidify surrounding Republican-held districts.

With the strong backing of popular Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman (D) and solid support in the African-American community, she beat former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, Columbus City Councilmember Priscilla Tyson and former state Rep. Ted Celeste, whose brother, Richard, is a former Ohio governor.

Beatty has not been without her critics over the years. When she voted against payday lending legislation in the Ohio Legislature years ago, some noted that her husband was lobbying against similar legislation in Virginia.

Beatty, who served as executive director of Montgomery County’s (Ohio) Human Services Department before she entered politics, owns a small retail boutique, and she owned a management training company for well over a decade.

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