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Five House Freshmen Are Standing Out

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Reps. James Lankford, Cory Gardner (above), Kristi Noem, Patrick Meehan and Tom Reed are confounding the stereotype of the House Republican freshman class. Each has made a mark on the 112th Congress, some by becoming leadership favorites.

The House Republican freshman class is a bunch of bomb-throwing conservatives intent on stymying leadership, shunning bipartisanship and shutting down the government, right?


Here are five freshmen who have become favorites of leadership or leaders in their own right, who have reached across the aisle to get practical results, or who break the mold in which the freshman class is often framed.

They represent the new institutionalists, those who might one day be the chamber’s top leaders, committee chairmen and messengers.

Rep. Cory Gardner (Colo.)

A top staffer to former Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) before being elected to the Colorado state House, Gardner said his time on Capitol Hill gave him an understanding of what people demand of their leaders, namely competence.

“There are a lot of the same kinds of issues now that we were dealing with in 2002,” he said, naming Allard’s work on a highway bill and a farm bill that year. “What helped was to see what worked and what didn’t work.”

It also made him a known commodity and a favorite of leaders, especially on energy messaging.

Gardner got an early score when halfway through his first session, leaders held a successful vote on his bill to roll back Clean Air Act regulations. Another measure, to spur oil and gas production, was part of leadership’s recent energy and jobs push.

Gardner also co-leads a National Republican Congressional Committee effort to collect dues from Members.

“Most everyone has pegged him as a rising star in the Conference,” a GOP aide said. “He gets the political side of things but also is very good with policy.”

Gardner also hosts a supper club for fellow freshmen with Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.).

Rep. James Lankford (Okla.)

Formerly the director of the country’s largest Christian youth camp, the Oklahoman had no prior political experience and was on nobody’s radar until he was elected.

“He came out of nowhere, but he got here and totally has impressed folks,” said a GOP aide.

Calm, focused and solidly conservative, Lankford said he tried to set himself apart by staying away from hyperbole.

“This is a place where you’re typically rewarded the more juvenile you act,” Lankford said. “I just try to do my homework and keep a level head.”

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