Senate

Elections bring in group of trailblazing lawmakers with potential to reach new heights

Congresswoman-elect reacts to the Utah race

 

The midterm elections bring to Capitol Hill and state houses across the country a collection of high-achievers with enough brains and swagger to become fast-rising stars.

Election night wins for Republicans resulted in several ground-breaking candidates getting elected to office, in addition to the party picking up 21 additional congressional and three more gubernatorial seats.

“It was a night of important firsts,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday.

Utah Republican Mia Love is atop most lists, even if her arrival to Washington took longer than expected.

Love’s House race victory makes her the first black female Republican in Congress.

“This is historic but it’s not because of the color of my skin,” Love told Fox News on Wednesday. “It’s historic because Utah has decided to elect a person based on their principles.”

South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott’s Senate victory makes him the first black lawmaker elected to both chambers of Congress.  

“The Republican Party is back,” said Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “We are back with youth. We are back with diversity. … I would say that the women who are coming in are a very talented group.”

Priebus and Walden also expressed optimism about the future success of such trailblazing Republicans as Joni Ernst, whose win in Iowa makes her the first female combat veteran to get elected to the Senate and the first woman in Congress from that state.

In addition, 37-year-old Arkansas GOP Rep. Tom Cotton winning a Senate seat Tuesday makes him the youngest member of the upper chamber.

Republican Shelley Moore Capito’s Senate win in West Virginia makes her the first woman from that state elected to the chamber.

To be sure, several incoming Capitol Hill lawmakers, including at least three Harvard University graduates, have the pedigree and drive to put them firmly on the path to success.

However, the changing dynamics of politics and the media, particularly in the wait-your-turn Senate, has the potential to perhaps turn a freshman lawmaker into overnight politician star.

A few of the most obvious examples are GOP Sens. Rand Paul, Ky., and Ted Cruz, Texas, elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave that they have ridden to potential 2016 White House bids, largely by working outside of the traditional leadership system.

Only one new Democrat was elected to the Senate, Greg Peters in Michigan. Washington Democrats did not return phone calls seeking comment about the future of their newly elected lawmakers.

Among the other rising GOP stars is Elise Stefanik, who when elected Tuesday became the youngest female member of Congress.

She worked on the Romney campaign before carefully charting her course to Capitol Hill, which included leaving Washington for her parents’ upstate New York summer home, then working in the family business, which allowed her to travel the region to learn about the local economy, voters and their concerns.

Republicans have for years had high hopes about Ben Sasse joining the Senate. The first-time candidate, a former Bush administration appointee, attended Harvard University like Cotton and Stefanik.

The GOP is still awaiting the results of the Arizona House race that features Martha McSally, the first female U.S. Air Force pilot to fly combat missions.

She remains locked in a too-close-to-call race with incumbent Democratic Rep. Ron Barber for the seat of retired Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Barber, a former Giffords aide, defeated McSally in 2012, and a second loss could put her political career in peril.

On the Democrats side, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ rising star dipped Tuesday when she lost her gubernatorial bid.

Davis burst on to the national political scene last year with her a crowd-cheering filibuster that blocked a bill to close abortion clinics across Texas.

On the state level, Washington Republicans on Wednesday also mentioned Maryland Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford as one of their rising stars.

The win by Rutherford, a lawyer who was an Agriculture Department appointee under the Bush administration, makes him the state’s third-consecutive black lieutenant governor, with the GOP’s Michael Steele having held that seat from 2003 to 2007.

Republicans almost got an unexpected win in Virginia with former RNC Chairman and Bush administration aide Ed Gillespie.

The race was so close with incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner that it was not decided until Friday.

Still, Republicans were upbeat about the results, suggesting that Gillespie, a fist-time candidate and long-shot to beat Warner, has a promising future in electoral politics.

The GOP had high hopes for the 38-year-old Love in 2012, giving her the national stage with a prime-time speech at the party’s national convention in Tampa. However, the former Saratoga Springs, Utah, mayor narrowly lost her first House race a couple of months later, only to rebound in 2014 with more experience and a better-run campaign.