The New Big Men (and Woman) in Town – The Senate Freshmen

There are 13 new members of the United States Senate, and here they are (well, most of them, anyways), along with the best way to identify them in conversation (if, like me, you ever refer to them in conversation):

The Young One – Marco Rubio (Florida)
Favored to win in all polls leading up to the election against Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meeks.  Crist was a formerly popular governor of Florida–popular until he left the Republican Party to run as an independent.  This worked out well for Rubio, because Crist siphoned votes from the Democratic base of Meeks, a five-term Congressman from south Florida.  He ended up winning the race with almost a majority of the vote (48.9%), even with two opponents.  There is talk of him being the next President, or Vice President, on the account of his being young, handsome, and Cuban.  He replaces George LeMieux, who replaced Mel Martinez, the first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate.

The Old One – Dan Coats (Indiana)
Dan Coats used to be the Senator from Indiana.  He’s now the Senator-elect from Indiana.  It seems that the people of Indiana decided that they didn’t like the Senator that served in between Coats and Coats, Evan Bayh.  In fact, it seems that Evan Bayh didn’t like the idea of running against Dan Coats, because he announced he wouldn’t run for re-election 5 days after Coats announced that he was running for his old seat.  Coats also served in the U.S. House of Representatives, as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, and as a lobbyist.  He is 67 years old.  Interesting fact for Illinoisans: he attended Wheaton College, where he graduated in 1965.

The Woman – Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire)
Women make up 17% of the U.S. Senate, and Kelly Ayotte will join them.  Actually, one woman is leaving the Senate (Blanche Lincoln, having lost to John Boozman), and Kelly Ayotte will be joining, so the percentage of women will remain the same (assuming that Lisa Murkowski maintains her lead in Alaska).  She joins three other Republican women (Murkowski, Snowe and Collins of Maine, and Hutchison of Texas), and 13 Democrat women (why do Democrats elect more women than Republicans?).  She also joins another woman from New Hampshire in the Senate, Jeanne Shaheen.  Ayotte built her career as a prosecutor, a Deputy Attorney General, and finally as the Attorney General of New Hampshire.  She argued a major case before the Supreme Court in regards to parental notification of abortion of unemancipated minors, and has promised to be a strong vocal advocate for unborn children while serving in the U.S. Senate.  She also takes a fairly Libertarian view of marriage, saying that marriage should be left to churches, and not the state.

The One Who Beat the One Republicans Hate – Ron Johnson (Wisconsin)
Ron Johnson beat Russ Feingold, who had been for 18 years the Senator that Republicans hated but could not remove from office.  This year, that changed.  Ron Johnson, a political neophyte, never having run for political office before, beat Feingold by 104,000 votes (52%-47%).  Johnson previously had been the owner and CEO of PACUR, LLC, a plastics company.  Interestingly, he holds pretty conservative values, and some might say that he’s too conservative for a state like Wisconsin and only won because of economic issues.  This will be something to watch for in the 2016 election, when he will be running again.

The Democrat – Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut)
The only Democrat that is new to the U.S. Senate will be Richard Blumenthal, who was elected to replace the retiring Chris Dodd (recently famous for being the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and taking favorable personal loans from banks).  Connecticut, which hasn’t elected a Republican to that seat in the Senate since 1963, elected another Democrat to replace Dodd, though Republicans put up some semblance of a fight.  Blumenthal, the Attorney General of Connecticut since 1991, has nonetheless had an unremarkable (or unsuccessful) career.  Many of his major cases have been decided against him, or had unintended consequences.  One such example was a case where he sued a company for $1.7 million, and won, but later the CEO sued the state for misuse of power, and was awarded an $18.3 million judgment.

The Best Replacement – Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)
In 2010, after serving 30 years in the U.S. Senate, there were exactly 2 people who wanted Arlen Specter to continue in his seat (OK, if you want to be technical, there were really 487,217 Democrats who still wanted him).  Apart from having a horrible voice and mediocre personality, he alienated both Republicans and Democrats by switching parties.  Republicans knew that he really wasn’t a Republican, and Democrats just didn’t trust a flipper.  Pat Toomey served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 6 years, and then ran a primary challenge from the right against Arlen Specter in 2004, but lost by 1.7%.  His second challenge (this year) was more successful, but probably did not go as he had expected.  When Arlen Specter switched parties in April 2009, commentators said that this would make a second Pat Toomey challenge much easier, which it did.  Specter lost the Democrat primary to Joe Sestak (a congressman from eastern Pennsylvania), who lost to Toomey in the general election 51%-49%, a difference of 77,000 votes.

The “Wait, They Get Senators?” One – John Hoeven, (North Dakota)
In 1787, populated states and less-populated states reached an agreement during the constitutional convention called the “Great Compromise” (or “Connecticut Compromise”) that there would be two houses of Congress—one that would be represented according to population (the House), and one that would have equal representation regardless of population (the Senate).  Populous states are still angry about this (though most of the currently populous states didn’t exist at the time).  Given this compromise, North Dakota gets two senators, even though its population is about 1/100th of the population of California.  John Hoeven, the longest-serving current governor in the United States (10 years), won the recent election.

The Darling – Rand Paul (Kentucky)
If you have any political ears whatsoever, you will have heard of Rand Paul, the Tea Party darling from Kentucky.  He was loved by conservatives and eccentrics, and hated by Democrats because of his curly hair and his libertarian values.  He ran a close race against John Conway, the good-looking Attorney General of Kentucky who will not be remembered, and won by a healthy 56% of the vote.  Rand Paul is the son of Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who ran an unsuccessful (but surprisingly spry) campaign for president in 2008, marked by a non-interventionist position on war, and eliminating the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and FEMA and the IRS.  Rand Paul, however, was not a politician (though he was politically active).  He was an ophthalmologist who was vocal about term limits, a balanced budget amendment, and the Read the Bills Act.

The “He Wasn’t Already a Senator?” One – Roy Blunt (Missouri)
Roy Blunt has served in the U.S. Congress for 14 years, and as the House Minority Whip, the House Majority Whip, and the Acting House Majority Leader.  He’s the son of Matt Blunt, the former governor of Missouri from 2005-2009.  He was a county clerk and the Missouri Secretary of State.  He ran against another well-known family name in Missouri politics, Robin Carnahan.  Her grandfather was a congressman from Missouri, her father was the governor of Missouri, and her mother was a former U.S. Senator (appointed after her father was elected posthumously to the seat).  Blunt handily beat Carnahan in the 2010 Senate race, 57%-43%.

The Establishment One – Rob Portman (Ohio)
Rob Portman was an establishment candidate.  He was a 7-term congressman that won his terms with over 70% of the vote.  He served in George W. Bush’s administration as the U.S. Trade Representative, and then as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  He ran for the open Senate seat of George Voinovich, who is most remembered for his teary floor speech against John Bolton and for being the mayor of Cleveland, a distinction he shares with Dennis Kucinich.  Rob Portman was known as a legislator who worked well with his colleagues and who came up with good ideas, like reforming the Internal Revenue Service.  He beat the Democratic candidate, Lee Fisher, 57%-40%, a difference of 677,700 votes.

The One Who Took Obama’s Seat – Mark Kirk (Illinois)
Mark Kirk is taking over President Obama’s old Senate seat, returning it to Republican hands after a short 6 years.  He represented the 10th Congressional district in Illinois (northern suburbs of Illinois) for 10 years before running for the Senate.  I’ve talked about him before in this blog, and am not a big fan, even though he is a Republican.  He also won a special election to fill out the rest of President Obama’s term, though the results have yet to be certified so that he can take his place there.  He voted for the cap-and-trade bill in Congress, though he now says that it was because it was in the narrow interests of his own congressional district, and not for Illinois or the nation as a whole.  He is also rabidly pro-abortion.

The Unknown Ones – The four new Senators that I don’t have any words about are John Boozman of Arkansas, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Joe Machin of West Virginia, all of whom will end up like the people they replaced–unknown.

Who’s your favorite new Senator?