The nine Democratic members of the class of 2010 should take heart: The 10 Republicans who took office in January 2007 are doing just fine. Though they smcpent their first two terms in the minority, they’re well-positioned to be influential now that Republicans are in charge.
The Democratic class of 2010 is the smallest either party has elected since at least 1915, not including Members who won special elections and joined sessions of Congress that had already started. It becomes more significant in contrast to the large Republican class — at 87 Members, the Republican class is the largest either party has elected since 128 new Democrats came to the House following the 1932 elections. The nine fresh-faced Democrats are, in many ways, the hope of their party.
Like the Republicans elected in 2006, most of the Democrats won in districts that reliably send Democrats to the House. Six of them were elected in open seats, and Democrats vacated five of those. The exception is Rep.-elect John Carney in Delaware, who will take the place of Rep. Mike Castle (R). Castle is leaving Congress after losing a Republican primary bid for Senate.
Two of the Democrats, state Rep. Cedric Richmond in Louisiana and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii, defeated Republican incumbents who had served one term or less, and one, Michigan Rep.-elect Hansen Clarke, defeated Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in the Democratic primary.
All of the Republicans victorious in the 2006 elections won open seats that Republicans had vacated. California Rep. Kevin McCarthy won the seat his former boss, Rep. Bill Thomas, retired from in 2006. After two terms in the House, he’ll serve as Majority Whip starting in January.
This year, McCarthy appointed as his chief deputy a fellow member of the class of 2006, Rep. Peter Roskam (Ill.). Following the retirement of Rep. Henry Hyde (R), Roskam won a heated race to represent Illinois’ 6th district, defeating Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, a top recruit of then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel, who represented a neighboring district.
All eight other members of that GOP class are still in the House, but Rep. Mary Fallin (Okla.) will be the first to leave. A former lieutenant governor, she will be sworn in as the Sooner State’s first female governor on Jan. 10. Another Republican, Rep.-elect James Lankford, will take her place.
Some of the Republicans have been mentioned as potential Senate candidates for 2012. Minnesota observers have wondered whether Rep. Michele Bachmann will challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat also first elected to Congress in 2006. The Congresswoman raised $13.3 million in the 2010 cycle and defeated her Democratic challenger by 12 points. She’s also considered a viable statewide contender because she still had nearly $2 million in the bank as of Nov. 22. Bachmann’s rising national profile and the possibility of Minnesota losing a seat in the House make a Senate run logical.
Strong fundraising also has prompted speculation that Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) would challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who was first elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving seven terms in the House.
Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is rumored to be considering a primary challenge to Sen. John Ensign, who has battled months of bad publicity and legal fallout following an affair with a staffer.
Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.), Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.) and Adrian Smith (Neb.) were also first elected in 2006. Each has been easily re-elected since.