The Republican tidal wave that swept the country in Tuesday’s midterm elections ushered in several fresh GOP faces. Republicans not only overtook control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats, but the party also picked up more seats in the legislature’s upper chamber than most political pundits predicted. The GOP rewrote the history books along the way, breaking the gender barrier in states like Iowa and the gender and racial barriers in Utah. Here’s a look at five new members of Congress you need to know before they take office in January:
Ernst became the first woman to be elected to Congress in Iowa after she won her Senate race against U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat. Ernst also became the first female military member to be elected to the Senate. An Iowa state senator, Ernst serves in the Iowa National Guard and saw combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Early in the campaign, she raised eyebrows when she released a campaign ad about government spending where she referenced her experience “castrating hogs” on an Iowa farm. "So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” she said in the ad. The campaign piece also used the phrase “let’s make them squeal,” referring to Washington. It became a popular line on the campaign trail.
Cotton, 37, will become the youngest U.S. senator after he's sworn in. A Republican first-term congressman representing Arkansas, Cotton is a rising GOP star. Like Ernst, he also has military experience and saw combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division. Cotton played up his military experience in a lighthearted ad featuring his former drill sergeant from basic training. Watch the spot below:
As a Mormon, African-American, woman and a Republican, Mia Love broke several barriers when she won the race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District. Love, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, touched on her diversity in her victory speech on Tuesday. She's the first black Republican woman to be elected to Congress and the first Haitian-American from either party to be elected.
“This is a great night for our nation and I can tell you it is especially a great night for Utah,” Love said. “Many of the naysayers out there said that Utah would never elect a black Republican LDS woman to Congress. And guess what? We not only did it, we were the first to do it.”
Stefanik, 30, became the youngest woman to be elected to Congress after she defeated Democrat Aaron Woolf on Tuesday. Stefanik, who hails from upstate New York, comes from a family that owns a small business. That piece of her backstory became the highlight of the campaign after Woolf made what was seen as sexist remarks during a debate. Woolf characterized Stefanik’s work history as “sitting behind a desk.”
“Elise Stefanik has lived a very white collar life. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked manually for a living like I have and I’m certain [Green Party candidate] Matt [Funiciello] probably has. I don’t know if you can say something to a 49-year-old who’s working with their body, with their hands, it’s a very different thing than sitting behind a desk and operating a computer,” Woolf said.
Stefanik shot back, “Aaron, you’re the only multimillionaire running for this race. I’m proud of my experience ... working in my family’s small business. We sell plywood delivering to companies all across this district. So, you know, with all due respect, I’m proud of my work experience, and I think it speaks for itself.”
Bost didn’t make history like the four winning candidates above him, but the congressman-elect from the 12th Congressional District in Illinois may be the fieriest. Bost is a longtime state representative who was first elected to the state Legislature in 1993. It’s rare for a state-elected official to make headlines with a floor speech, but Bost’s anger went viral in 2012 when he gave an impassioned speech about pension reform. Check it out below: