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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.

While I have no reason to believe that she will stray from her party’s line on matters great or small, Beatty certainly has the temperament and personal style to reach across the aisle. She is personable and articulate, and she noted that during campaign debates she promised that she would not demonize business.

When I pointed out that a 63-year-old freshman from the minority party isn’t likely to have any effect in the House,
Beatty responded firmly, “I don’t have to do this. I’ve never been irrelevant. I’m creative, and I can think out of the box.”

Stewart, meanwhile, is a conservative Republican who surprised political observers by winning Utah’s 2nd district nominating convention with more than 60 percent of the vote, thereby avoiding a primary.

He drew criticism during the convention from some of his opponents, who accused him of embellishing his résumé, raising questions about a Jewish candidate in the race and creating phony reports of a conspiracy against him. An investigation into the convention, conducted by the state party, found no wrongdoing.

After college, Stewart spent 14 years in the Air Force, first flying rescue helicopters and then the B-1 bomber. While in the USAF, he started writing, and his list of books includes a Latter Day Saints-like version of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry B. Jenkins’ apocalyptic Christian fiction series “Left Behind,” as well as historical novels.

Stewart’s website notes that his latest book, “The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World,” was a New York Times bestseller. Conservative media personality Glenn Beck praised the book, which might explain its popularity.

Stewart is president and CEO of the Utah-based Shipley Group, which describes itself on its website as offering “training, consulting, coaching, writing and communication services” in a variety of areas “from environmental, engineering and project management to training in leadership and interpersonal communication.”

So far, Stewart, who is Mormon, sounds like a run-of-the-mill conservative from Utah. But unlike many conservatives, the GOP nominee and virtually certain winner in November has refused to sign the anti-tax pledge circulated by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

In fact, while Stewart, who supported Sen. Orrin Hatch’s bid for renomination this year, isn’t enthusiastic about raising taxes or taking on more federal debt — he is a social and fiscal conservative, after all — he acknowledges that the debt ceiling must be raised.

“The question is,” he asks, “do we honor the good faith and credit of the United States?”

Unlike the Republican presidential hopefuls who during an August 2011 debate unanimously said they would refuse a deal that involved $10 in spending cuts for $1 in additional taxes, Stewart, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), clearly thinks that isn’t a bad deal.

Will Stewart forcefully advocate for a compromise when he gets to Capitol Hill? I have no idea. But at least he sounds like a reasonable legislator who understands that there is a difference between what he wants and what can be achieved.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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