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Obscure Caucus: The Quiet Men of Congress

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Crenshaw has been a member of Roll Call’s Obscure Caucus for the past four years.

At 6 feet 4 inches, he’ll stand out in a room, but he doesn’t look to stand out among fellow lawmakers. Crenshaw rarely speaks on the House floor (a misidentification on C-SPAN first alerted us to his obscure qualifications) and in his entire congressional career, he’s introduced fewer than 30 bills. He’s sent 500-some tweets from his official account. By comparison, freshman Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican from the neighboring 6th District, has sent more than 700.

Before winning his House seat, Crenshaw was an investment banker and an attorney; he thought about political office only after he started dating (and later married) Kitty Kirk Crenshaw, the daughter of former Florida Gov. Claude Kirk Jr. He ran in — and lost — statewide elections in 1978, 1980 and 1994. He did spend 14 years in the state legislature, including time as Senate president. An Orlando Sentinel article in 1993 called him a “conciliatory leader” and a “genuinely nice guy.”

John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn. 2nd District; 13th full term
2012 re-election: 74 percent

One of the holdovers from the 2011 caucus, Duncan sticks with the tools he brought with him to Congress to replace his father in this Knoxville-based seat — and he hasn’t upgraded as technology has made high-volume outreach more accessible. He has no Twitter presence, he dislikes cellphones and email, and he doesn’t send out many press releases of national relevance.

The dean of the Tennessee delegation, Duncan wields power on two high-profile committees but rarely puts himself in the spotlight — and Republican leadership isn’t likely to put him there anytime soon. Duncan has honed issue-area expertise in a career-long tenure on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but his occasional departures from the GOP line may have kept him from taking the committee’s gavel. That independent streak, and a reputation among colleagues as having libertarian tendencies, doesn’t score him appearances on cable news shows or mentions in newspapers outside the state.

Duncan’s legislative successes come from behind-the-scenes negotiating and without the need to tout them in his strongly Republican district. He hasn’t dropped below 70 percent in any election since the special and general elections he won in 1988.

Brett Guthrie, R-Ky. 2nd District; 3rd term
2012 re-election: 64 percent

We had our eye on Guthrie two years ago for future membership in the caucus, and so it is no surprise he made it in his first year of eligibility. Guthrie keeps his legislative focus narrow from the GOP’s back benches. He has a subdued social-media presence mainly related to his campaign activities, which don’t take much time in his solidly Republican district with constituents who have re-elected him twice by wide margins.

Most of his work — and nearly all of the very limited time he has spent speaking on the House floor — is related to job creation and workforce training programs. Personal experience informs Guthrie’s views on how to prepare people for available jobs: He saw the effect of factory closings on the town where he grew up, and he later worked for his family’s auto parts company. The rest of the West Point graduate’s time is spent working to aid military veterans.

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