7 Tidbits From the House Freshman Class
Last December, most of the Class of 2012 was anxiously waiting for January, when the group would be sworn into the 113th Congress. Much of the biographical information on the more than 80 individuals was already well known: For example, Florida Republican Ted Yoho had been a veterinarian specializing in large animal care, and Massachusetts Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy III belonged to the most storied dynasty of American politics.
Additionally, nine new members joined this Congress midstream after its start in January — that’s including both those who were appointed to their seats, such as former New Jersey Sen. Jeff Chiesa, and those winning special elections, such as the newest of the new, Rep.-elect Bradley Byrne, who won Alabama’s special election last week. Byrne hasn’t yet been sworn in, and the House currently has one other vacancy because of the death of Florida’s C.W. Bill Young in October.
Some of the more fun details about these new folks took longer to emerge, after interviews, events or postings in social media. Here are a handful of biographical anecdotes (in no particular order) from those new to the first session of the 113th:
- California Democratic Rep. Juan C. Vargas really only uses his given name, Juan Carlos, in official settings. The congressman otherwise goes by Paco, a nickname that he has had since childhood.
- Working as a chief of staff before entering the House not only laid the foundation for Rep. Richard Hudson’s political knowhow, but also gave him love: He met his wife, Renee, who was also a chief of staff, during a work trip to Israel. “God brought us together,” he told CQ Roll Call. “I met her through an orientation meeting, thought she was cute, we sat together on the flight over, talked for nine straight hours. The rest is history.”
- Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema not only runs in political races in Arizona: She completed an Ironman Triathlon in November.
- Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin was a standout wrestler as a boy in Oklahoma and won a full scholarship to Missouri Valley College. He’s also had training in jujitsu and mixed martial arts. “You get punched enough, and your face becomes immune to it, I guess,” he said.
- When Republican Rep. Vance McAllister won election to Louisiana’s 5th District in November 2013, he doubled the number of Subway franchisees in the Louisiana delegation. (Rep. John Fleming is the other.)
- Republican Rep. Chris Stewart was a notable author before entering the House. But he added another book to his name in October with “My Story,” which he co-wrote with fellow Utahn Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted at 14 years old from her Salt Lake City home.
- Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty proudly secured an aisle seat for President Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address. As the president entered the chamber, she said she saw someone kiss him on the cheek with bright red lipstick. “I said to him, ‘Mr. President, there is lipstick on your face.’ He turns to me and says, ‘Joyce, get the lipstick off my face.’ … The next day, on the front page of USA Today, is this little girl from Dayton, Ohio, wiping the lipstick off the president’s face,” she told CQ Roll Call.