The Next Freshman Class

Posted November 6, 2008 at 5:08pm

Kilroy was here — as a candidate for Congress. Twice, in fact.

But as of this writing we still don’t know whether Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) will be joining the 111th Congress as the new Member from Ohio’s 15th district. It could be unhappy deja vu all over again for the Democrat. After losing a heartbreaker to Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) in 2006, Kilroy was trailing state Sen. Steve Stivers (R) by about 150 votes as of Thursday.

If Kilroy doesn’t make it, another famous cartoon character might: Charlie Brown. Brown, the Democratic nominee in the race to replace Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), was trailing state Sen. Tom McClintock (R) by about 450 votes on Thursday, with thousands more ballots to be counted.

Biographies of Kilroy, Stivers and a handful of other would-be Members who were in political limbo when this edition went to press on Thursday appear near the back of the section — a first for Roll Call’s biennial New Members Guide. Bios of the eight new Senators and almost 50 new House Members precede them.

Among those whose races haven’t been decided is comedian Al Franken (D), whose bid to topple Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) is headed to a recount. As of Thursday, Franken trailed by 337 votes.

But whether or not the freshman class includes Franken, it has a few characters — even though in general, the newcomers are a serious, sober lot.

Worth noting? Alan Grayson (D), the attorney who ousted Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) last week. Republicans’ attempts to portray Grayson as a captive of left wingers fell flat. But Grayson does appear to have a New Age side to him. His children are named Skye, Star, Sage, Storm and Stone.

Rep.-elect Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) was a star Mary Kay cosmetics saleswoman in an earlier life. More recently, and more conventionally, she was the Majority Leader of the Illinois state Senate.

Rep.-elect Jared Polis (D-Colo.) still carries his baseball mitt to Colorado Rockies games, according to a profile of him in the alternative weekly Westword. Rep.-elect Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is more of a jock than that: He was placekicker on the BYU football team in the 1980s. And you want sports connections? The family of Rep.-elect Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) owns the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The incoming crop of eight Senators (the list could grow, pending the outcomes of races in limbo) can be divided into three distinct categories: former governors (there are four of them), state legislators (two) and Udalls (two). The ex-governors are Sens.-elect Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Risch was elevated from lieutenant governor of the Gem State to governor when then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R) became President Bush’s secretary of the Interior. Rather than seeking a full term in the top slot, Risch ran for his old job again in 2006, defeating ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco (D) by 19 points. To win his Senate seat this year, Risch beat LaRocco again, this time by 24 points.

The arrival of the Udall cousins to the Senate is one of the feel-good stories of the election cycle — especially if you’re a Democrat or an environmentalist. Coincidentally, Rep.-elect Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep.-elect Tom Udall (D-N.M.) entered the House at the exact same time, too, back in 1999. Their fathers also served in the House: Tom Udall’s dad, Stewart Udall, held a House seat from Arizona until serving as Interior secretary under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Stewart Udall was succeeded in Congress by his brother, Mo Udall, who is Mark Udall’s father.

The Senate will be down one Udall cousin come January, however: Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), whose mother was first cousin to Stewart and Mo Udall, lost his bid for a third term last week.

The overwhelming majority of new House Members are current and former officeholders. The list includes a current state treasurer, Rep.-elect Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), and a former one, Rep.-elect Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). In times of fiscal crisis, that can’t be a bad thing.

Candidates love to describe themselves as political reformers, but the new Congress will have someone whose actual job was to be one: Rep.-elect Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is the former president of Common Cause. That group’s aversion to money in politics did not prevent Pingree from spending at least $1.9 million on her election, according to campaign finance reports.

Offspring of current and former Members are always turning up in Congress, and this freshman class is no exception. Rep.-elect Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) will be replacing his father, retiring Rep. Duncan L. Hunter (R).

The new House will have Schock — Rep.-elect Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) — and plenty of awwwwww. Love won’t make it to Capitol Hill — Alabama state Rep. Jay Love (R) was defeated in his bid for an open seat. But other happy words will be associated with the new Congress, like Bright, Fudge and Posey. That would be Rep.-elect Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), who in fact defeated Love; Rep.-elect Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio); and Rep.-elect Bill Posey (R-Fla.).

And speaking of flowers, Rep.-elect Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) used to run an arboretum. Rep.-elect Walt Minnick (D- Idaho) runs a garden center company.

Who is the youngest House freshman? Schock, a political wunderkind at age 27. Who is the oldest? Minnick, who is 66, as is Rep.-elect Parker Griffith (D-Ala.).

We don’t know who the richest new Member is, but here are some candidates. Warner made millions pioneering cell-phone technology. Polis is a wealthy Internet entrepreneur. Everything came up roses for Minnick, whose garden center company is the 10th largest in the U.S. — and who used to be a lumber company executive. Rep.-elect Harry Teague (D-N.M.) is an oil man.

We don’t know who the poorest is, but it might be Rep.-elect Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), a teacher and former mill worker. In a rematch last week, Kissell defeated Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), a textile company heir. A triumph for class warriors? Perhaps. But make no mistake, Kissell had a sugar daddy: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $2.4 million on his win.