Veteran pols will head rookie class

November 3, 2010

By MARIN COGAN, Politico

The freshman class of Republicans elected to the House on Tuesday night might be expected to sweep into Washington as scorched-earth revolutionaries.

But contrary to the popular narrative, the candidates who could give Rep. John Boehner the speaker’s gavel are not an unruly mob of outsiders and tea party activists but a cadre of seasoned state and local politicians who worked their way up through the local political establishment.

POLITICO analyzed the top candidates in 20 open seats where Republicans are expected to replace retiring members and the 50 closest House races, finding that out of the 70 potential GOP freshmen, two-thirds will come to Washington with political experience.

Boehner’s potential majority-makers will most likely be younger, with an average age closer to 45, compared with an average age of 56 in the House. The incoming class will also be more diverse than the current GOP establishment, with several women and a few minorities likely to join its ranks. The class is likely to bring geographic diversity to a party that was criticized in recent election cycles as being too white and too Southern — with some of the most promising pickups hailing from states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Arizona.

In interviews with several of them, only one potential freshman would commit to joining the Tea Party Caucus.

They are the types of local pols who delight in rattling off statistics on budget and deficit projections and speak of Capitol Hill as though it were overrun with reckless children in need of a disciplinarian. Their approach to what they see as Washington’s spending problems takes on an almost evangelical-like zeal.

With the caveat that we don’t yet know how big the wave will be, the portrait of the potential freshman class of Republicans reveals a group that will come in with serious experience with both local government budgets and small-business accounting books. About two-thirds of them have small-business or law backgrounds, which they believe offer would-be constituents joint benefits: the experience of having to make tough decisions on a fixed budget and then having to face the affected parties in grocery-store lines and at kids’ soccer games.

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