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10 House freshmen to watch

WASHINGTON — The 90-plus members of the House Class of 2010 are a diverse lot. In their day jobs they were funeral directors, gospel singers, football players, farmers, nurses and retired military officers. In one way, however, they are not diverse: Nearly 90 percent of them are Republicans. Here is a look at 10 potential stars of the incoming freshman class. And yes, they are almost all Republicans. — Houston Chronicle

Jaime Herrera, R-Wash.

The 32-year-old conservative from southwestern Washington is already a legislative veteran. She worked as a young staffer on Capitol Hill before returning home to capture a state House seat. Now, she is returning to Washington (D.C., that is) as one of the most heralded members of the gigantic freshman class. Charismatic, skilled at legislative procedure and rich in congressional connections, she has the potential for a long and successful political career — if she can just hold this swing district that she seized from the Democrats.

Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

At the age of 20, while a sophomore at Illinois State University, Adam Kinzinger defeated a 12-year Democratic incumbent to win a spot on the McLean County Board. Twelve years later, he's headed to Congress as one of the youngest, most conservative and most experienced members of the freshman class. With strong tea party support, this Air Force veteran and member of the Air National Guard promises to "bring government back to the people." He is one of three freshmen chosen to serve on the House GOP majority transition team.

Martha Roby, R-Ala.

It was a rough road to Washington for one of National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Pete Session's top recruits. Roby, 34, a Birmingham City Council member who led the fight to prohibit businesses from harboring illegal immigrants, had a tough primary fight against a more conservative opponent. Then she eked out a narrow win over conservative Democratic incumbent Bobby Bright. Now that she's on her way to Washington, Roby's future appears bright. And she has friends in high places.

Tim Scott, R-S.C.

Scott — who grew up in poverty with a single mother who worked 16 hours a day to care for her two boys — will be the first African-American Republican to serve South Carolina in Congress since Reconstruction. An insurance company owner and real estate partner, he's made a name for himself as an elected official (Charleston council, South Carolina House) who has never voted for a tax increase. Scott, 45, is a religious and fiscal conservative who was president of the legislature's freshman class — and already has been plucked for a leadership post by GOP leaders.

Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

A rare Democratic freshman in a Congress dominated by Republican newcomers, Sewell will become the first African-American woman to serve Alabama in Congress. Sewell, 45, comes from a family of barrier breakers. She's the first black valedictorian of Selma High School. Her mother was the first African-American woman elected to the Selma City Council. She graduated from Princeton University, Oxford University in England and Harvard Law School.

Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.

A retired Army officer from Kinderhook, N.Y. (home of President Martin Van Buren), Gibson, 46, should become a leading military expert in the new Congress. During a 24-year career, he rose to the rank of colonel and was deployed seven times, including four combat tours to Iraq and once to Haiti following the earthquake. He has written a book on national security decision making and has taught politics at West Point, earned four Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart and many more medals.

Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn.

A farmer from Frog Jump, Tenn., Stephen Fincher captured a Democratic House seat in a landslide. The 37-year-old social conservative has been in the public eye since the age of 7, when he joined his family's singing ministry, "The Fincher Family." He runs his family's West Tennessee agribusiness operations, including cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat. Before seeking public office, the life member of the National Rifle Association sang at more than 2,000 community events in a decade. He's definitely prepared for a career in public speaking.

Kristi Noem, R-S.D.

This 38-year-old farmer, rancher and hunting lodge owner won one of the most-watched House races in the nation over a popular Democratic incumbent, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Considered the Sarah Palin of South Dakota, the 1990 South Dakota Snow Queen rose to become Assistant Majority Leader of the South Dakota House. Noem is anti-abortion, pro-gun, anti-tax conservative with a record of accomplishment, strong support from religious right groups and huge star potential.

Jon Runyan, R-N.J.

No dumb jock here. He's the first member of his working-class family from Flint, Mich., to attend college. Before defeating Democrat John Adler, Runyan, 37, made his name as a star center (and fan favorite) for the Philadelphia Eagles. He retired from the NFL last year and started running for Congress. Runyan studied kinesiology at the University of Michigan and entrepreneurial management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. Now, he'll protect the new GOP quarterback from Democratic pressure.

Ben Quayle, R-Ariz.

No joke. The son of the much-lampooned former vice president is out to prove his political smarts as a lawmaker from Arizona. Quayle, 33, emerged from a crowded primary field with brash television ads declaring "Barack Obama is the worst president in history" and "somebody has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place." He defeated more experience rivals and survived a minicontroversy over some risque postings on a sexy web site. His name may have helped him get elected, but he'll have to prove himself now.

10 House freshmen to watch 11/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:21pm]
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