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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.

He stuck with his experience when he got to the Kentucky Senate, learning that “you can’t be an expert in everything.” His expertise won him an Education subcommittee gavel in his freshman term in the House and a place on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee in his second.

Leonard Lance, R-N.J. 7th District; 3rd term
2012 re-election: 57 percent

Lance comes from a state of big personalities. He’s not one of them. He’s moderate, polite and studious, and the closest he’s come to a “scandal” was when he told The Star-Ledger of Newark that he sometimes fantasizes about debt reduction in the shower. Lance was on our Obscure Caucus watch list in 2011, and we slotted him in here right away this year.

Fiscally conservative and an admirer of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s coalition-building skills, he generally supports his party leadership on votes where a majority of Republicans oppose a majority of Democrats. His notable departure from the GOP was during the 111th Congress, when he backed a cap-and-trade climate change bill.

One of his legislative priorities has been to make Congressional Research Service publications available to the public online. But overall, Lance is more of a traditionalist: He said he did not start using a cellphone until 2004, and his home in New Jersey was built in 1780.

Following a family tradition of holding political office in New Jersey and pursuing a career in the law, Lance spent time as a counsel for Gov. Thomas H. Kean. After serving in both chambers of the state legislature, Lance won a seat in Congress in 2008.

Rick Larsen, D-Wash. 2nd District; 7th term
2012 re-election: 61 percent

This is Larsen’s third spin with the Obscure Caucus. His close win in the 2010 election over Republican John Koster (51 percent) nearly cost him his place on the dance card, but the election itself wasn’t covered extensively on the national stage. After decennial redistricting, Larsen won with a comfortable 61 percent in 2012, solidifying his presence on our list.

Before he entered the House in 2001, he worked for the Port of Everett and then became the director of public affairs for the Washington Dental Association. His other elected experience was on the Snohomish County Council.

Moderate in his manner and his views, Larsen is an approachable lawmaker with a self-effacing sense of humor. He rarely speaks on the House floor and though he’s introduced a sizable amount of legislation, much of it deals with local issues and sexy topics such as Export-Import Bank reauthorization.

His office earned unwelcome attention in December 2011 — but it was the staffers, not the congressman, who created the headlines. Larsen fired three legislative aides who bragged on Twitter that they had been drinking in the office, destroyed property and bad-mouthed the congressman.

Kenny Marchant, R-Texas 24th District; 5th term
2012 re-election: 61 percent

An exemplar of this caucus, Marchant comes right out and says that “being at the microphone and giving the speeches and all that never was part of my deal.” It wasn’t part of the deal in the state House — where he gave about eight speeches in 18 years — and it isn’t part of the deal in Washington. In his third term on the caucus, Marchant has earned the chairmanship.

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