The new class of the 112th Congress is the largest in years. Voter unhappiness in November swept in nearly 100 newcomers representing 39 states. As they begin work in January, their varied backgrounds and heritages underscore why the House of Representatives is known as the People’s House.
New Hampshire Republican
A two-term mayor of Manchester—the Granite State’s largest city—Guinta, 40, defeated incumbent Carol Shea-Porter.
On arriving in Washington: “I have two kids, ages seven and six. This’ll be their first visit to Washington, for my swearing-in. We’re trying to make it more family-oriented. I was mayor, so they’re used to me having some public profile. All they really care about is that my new office has a snack room—like my office in city hall did. I showed them the architectural drawings and had the architect label one space as the snack room. It’s really going to be more of a snack shelf.”
A 45-year-old securities lawyer from Selma, Sewell worked on Capitol Hill during college, for then–Democratic representative Richard Shelby. The seat she won was vacated by Artur Davis, who ran for governor.
On starting work: “Mostly I’m interested in orienting myself in the Capitol. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies that I’ve already begun to discover. There’s a beautiful Lindy Boggs Women’s Reading Room that you’d never know about. Plus, of course, Washington has the zoo. I’m a panda person.”
The district attorney, 58, is only the third member of Congress ever elected from his hometown of Quincy; the first was John Quincy Adams. Keating’s new office in the Cannon building has a legacy, too: It was once JFK’s congressional office.
To win the seat once held by former speaker Dennis Hastert, Hultgren—a 44-year-old state senator, investment adviser, and evangelical Christian—had to beat Hastert’s son Ethan in the GOP primary.
The mayor of Hazleton, the town where he was born, Barletta, 54, became a national hero for Republicans when he passed the first municipal law against illegal immigration.
On his political inspiration: “I’m a huge Ronald Reagan fan. I convinced my family to go to his presidential library. They couldn’t get me off Air Force One [which was on display]. I was holding up the line. You finish the tour standing at his grave. The rest of my family was all finished and in the car waiting, and I just was standing there looking at it. It was so emotional. I tried to be a mayor just like him. He didn’t micromanage; he just set people in a direction and let them go.”
A longtime auctioneer and real-estate agent in southwestern Missouri, Long, 55, has been voted the best auctioneer in the Ozarks for seven years straight.
On his legislative agenda: “In Missouri, we have the Hancock Amendment, named after former congressman Mel Hancock, which puts constitutional limits on taxes and spending. I’d like to work for that on the federal level.”
A onetime Dartmouth football star and lieutenant governor of Delaware, Carney, 54, won the seat vacated by Mike Castle, who lost the GOP Senate primary to Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell.
New Hampshire Republican
The Dartmouth grad, 58, regained the House seat he’d held for 12 years after Paul Hodes, who’d defeated him in 2006, ran for the Senate.
On returning: “I’m a two-time majority maker, coming in with the GOP majorities of ’94 and 2010. I’ve had four years to think about all my missed opportunities. It’s like going back to college and having a chance to take all the classes you skipped the first time. I’m amazed at how much I’m learning going through orientation a second time.”
A onetime physician assistant and a Los Angeles native, Bass, 57, was the first African-American woman to lead a state assembly in the United States, taking the helm of California’s in 2008.
A lifelong resident of Corpus Christi, Farenthold, 49, hosted a conservative talk-radio show, Lago in the Morning, before announcing his candidacy. He met wife Debbie while at college when they were in line for tickets to a Jimmy Buffett concert.
On exploring Washington: “I’m really looking forward to collecting all the Foursquare badges. I’m going to go out for a walking tour and check in everywhere I need to. I managed to get the History Channel badge during freshman orientation.”
A surgeon from the Upper Peninsula, Benishek, 58—who has never held elected office—captured the seat held by Bart Stupak, the Democratic congressman whose objection to federal funding of abortion threatened to derail President Obama’s health-care initiative.
The 59-year-old labor lawyer initially finished second to Charles Djou in a three-way May special election to fill the seat left open by Representative Neil Abercrombie’s resignation before she defeated Djou in November for the full term.
On Washington: “I’m really excited to be in such an international and diverse city. I love to cook. Everyone’s telling me about the great Ethiopian and Indian food in Washington. I love cities that have large-enough communities to support their individual ethnic cuisines. That’s how we pay our highest respect to immigrants.”
A graduate of Indiana University, he won the seat of Mark Kirk, Illinois’s newly elected senator. Dold, 41, is an owner of Rose Pest Solutions, which began around 1860 and is the nation’s oldest pest-management company.
On Washington: “I worked in Washington before, in the first Bush White House, doing advance, traveling all around, and for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. As far as I’m concerned, a great evening is walking around the monuments at night. We’ve got such great history. I want to be sure I get my family out to see that.”
Ann Marie Buerkle
New York Republican, 59
Tennessee Republican, 48
Rhode Island Democrat, 49
Georgia Rebpublican, 40
This article first appeared in the January 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.