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In a closely divided House, particularly one in which about half the membership has turned over in the past three election cycles, leadership is more important than ever. The influx of new members has created opportunity for advancement, whether within House leadership ranks or in other political offices. Here are 10 House freshmen (in alphabetical order) worth watching as the 113th Congress gets under way.
1. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio
Beatty was the first woman to serve as Democratic leader in the Ohio state House. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that she counts Minority Leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a political inspiration, then, as both women are leadership trailblazers. Beatty’s résumé, though, is wide and varied, and she brings to the table experience as a college administrator, professor, mental health counselor, local government health services official and even a small-business owner as the proprietor of a clothing boutique in Columbus. As the representative of the swing state’s biggest city and capital, she can bring an urban focus to her work in Congress and as a new member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
2. Rep. Susan W. Brooks, R-Ind.
It likely won’t be long before House GOP leaders see the sunny, articulate Brooks as a natural spokeswoman for the conference. Her service in government — she was a deputy mayor of Indianapolis and a U.S. attorney — dovetails with time spent as a community college administrator and has given her insight into workforce and education issues. Brooks has preached civility as a means of conducting the public’s business, something she says has been instrumental in her ability to work with diverse constituencies.
3. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas
Castro and his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, are rock stars back home and have been celebrated as the new face of the Democratic Party since they burst onto the national scene at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., last summer. The Stanford and Harvard-educated Joaquin spent 10 years in the rough-and-tumble Texas state House before winning his congressional seat. The twins give San Antonio a local-national one-two punch that could elevate the sleepy-yet-populous city as well as their respective careers.
4. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Cotton was sworn in to his first term Jan. 3, but Republican strategists didn’t even wait that long to start salivating at the prospect of having the Harvard-educated Army veteran (he served in Iraq and Afghanistan) with the leading-man name and looks running against Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. Cotton credits President Bill Clinton with sparking his interest in politics, and Cotton’s deep conservative views hew closely to his district’s red tint.
5. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii