The New Congress
This year’s New Members Guide is skinnier than 2002’s — nine Senators rather than 10, and 38 House Members rather than 52. In large part, that’s because 2002’s guide reflected an influx of House Members elected under newly drawn map lines. But it’s also reflective of the vanishing number of incumbents who have been knocked out of office.
This Election Night saw only one sitting Senator defeated — Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) — compared to three in 2002. The only House Members to lose their jobs Tuesday were Democrat Baron Hill (Ind.) and Republicans Phil Crane (Ill.) and Max Burns (Ga.), plus four Texas Democrats who were redistricted out of favorable seats: Max Sandlin, Nick Lampson, Charlie Stenholm and Martin Frost.
That said, there’s always new blood — and in 2004, there’s quite a bit of young blood to report. In the Senate, Democratic wunderkind Barack Obama (Ill.) is joining the Fortysomething Caucus by Republican newcomers Richard Burr (N.C.), John Thune (S.D) and David Vitter (La.) and Democratic freshman Ken Salazar (Colo.). None of the other Senate newcomers is older than 60.
And in the House, some Members-elect are even younger. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is 29, Dan Boren (D-Okla.) is 31, Bobby Jindal (R-La.) is 33, Cathy McMorris (R-Wash.) is 35, and Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) is 37. The most senior freshman is Joe Schwarz (R-Mich.), who turns 67 next week.
Both chambers are seeing an influx of demographic diversity, especially the Senate. The Senate welcomes its first black Member in six years (Obama) as well as two Hispanic Senators, Salazar and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who becomes the first Cuban-American to take a seat in the chamber. There have been no Hispanics in the Senate since 1976.
The House will have four new black Members, all Democrats: Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), Al Green (Texas), Cynthia McKinney (Ga.) and Gwen Moore (Wis.). The Democrats also added two Hispanics — Ken Salazar’s brother John in Colorado and Henry Cuellar in Texas — while the Republicans added the first-ever Indian-American Member of Congress, Jindal.
In the House, eight new women will take seats in the 109th Congress, five Democrats and three Republicans. They are: Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), Thelma Drake (R-Va.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), McKinney, McMorris, Moore, Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
Don’t look for any additional gender diversity in the Senate, though. Unlike 2002, which saw the election of Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), all nine new Senators elected last week are men.
As in 2002, the new crop of Senators has certainly climbed the political ladder with precision. Six served in the House (Burr, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Thune and Vitter), which is up from four in the Class of 2002. The other three newcomers have served as state attorney general (Salazar), state Senator (Obama) and presidential Cabinet member and county chairman (Martinez).
The most common occupation in the Senate — attorney — is just as strong as ever. Four new Senators, Martinez, Obama, Salazar and Vitter, are lawyers.
Another common occupation, former Capitol Hill aide, is also on the résumés of several House newcomers. Boren, Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) are all familiar with the Capitol complex from their days as aides, while Jindal surely got to know the Hill during a stint as a political appointee at the Health and Human Services Department.
Then there are the three new Members who were also old Members. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and McKinney have all returned to the House after career detours. Inglis and Lungren gave up their seats to run for other offices, while McKinney was defeated for re-election by Denise Majette in the Democratic primary two years ago. Majette ran for Senate this year and lost, leaving McKinney to reclaim her seat.
Continuing a striking pattern in American politics, five new House Members hail from storied political families. Boren is the son of former Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.), who served in the Senate with Connie Mack III (R-Fla.), the father of incoming Rep. Connie Mack IV. Lipinski all but inherited his seat from his father, Bill, who successfully maneuvered Chicago’s Democratic machine into giving the seat to his son. Missouri Democrat Russ Carnahan is the grandson of a House Member as well as the son of both a governor (Mel Carnahan) and a Senator (Jean Carnahan, who filled two years of her late husband’s term from 2000 to 2002).
Then there’s the Salazar clan, which will become the third brother duo ever to serve in the Senate and House simultaneously. They were preceded to that particular summit by Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Sander Levin, both Michigan Democrats, and Sen. Tim Hutchinson and Rep. Asa Hutchinson, both Arkansas Republicans.
Several incoming Members of Congress found success this year after trying and failing in previous years. Thune, Bean, Cuellar, Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) and Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) each lost in their Congressional bids two years ago. Other newcomers who chalked up major losses in recent years include Texas Republican Mike Conaway (who lost a special-election primary for a House seat to now-Rep. Randy Neugebauer), Jindal (who was the Republican nominee for Louisiana governor in 2003), Schwartz (who lost a Democratic primary for Senate in Pennsylvania) and Schwarz (who lost a Republican primary for governor in Michigan).
And for those keeping score, Rhodes Scholars went two for three on Election Day this year. Vitter and Jindal won, while Democrat Brad Carson lost his Senate bid in Oklahoma.