More than 80 new Republican lawmakers are heading to Washington as a result of last Tuesday's "shellacking" of the Democrats in the midterm elections.
But the first thing to know about the soon-to-be Capitol Hill insiders is that many of them are truly outsiders. Of the 87 incoming GOP freshmen in the House, a whopping 35 have never served in any elective office in their lives. With six medical doctors, three car dealers, two funeral directors, a former FBI agent, a pizza restaurant owner and a Northwest Airlines pilot in the ranks, they will be the most unconventional group of citizen-legislators to head to Washington in decades.
Beyond their broad range of careers, the new group will also be the most diverse GOP class in House history, with five new Latino members, two African-Americans and nine women adding to the ranks of the current Republican House.
Add in the son of a former vice president, a 1990s reality show star, and a guy named Bob Dold, and the freshmen of the 112th Congress are sure to change not only the the face of Congress, but also the GOP. Here are the class of 2011's rising stars:
* Tim Scott, South Carolina.
Along with Allen West of Florida, Scott will be one of the first two Republican African-Americans to serve in the House since J.C. Watts retired in 2002, giving the party a much-needed dose of diversity in Washington. A charismatic member of the South Carolina state House of Representatives, Scott soundly defeated Paul Thurmond, the son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, in the GOP primary and went on to win the general election with 67 percent of the vote. Scott was the first black Republican in the South Carolina Legislature since Reconstruction and will be the first black Republican to represent the state in Congress. Look for Scott to be front and center in the national GOP's messaging in their efforts to expand their base and win new voters.
* Kristi Noem, South Dakota.
Noem is one of at least seven new women coming to Washington to join the House GOP (two more women, Ann Marie Buerkle and Renee Ellmers are awaiting their results). But the 38-year-old mother of three, who is described by friends as having "a backbone of steel," promises to be a breakout star for the GOP. Not only did the telegenic cattle rancher knock out the incumbent, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, for South Dakota's at-large House seat, her previous job as the assistant majority leader in the South Dakota House of Representatives makes her more than just another mama grizzly
* Jaime Herrera.
The 32-year-old Washington state legislator is one of five new Latino House members joining the Republican caucus in 2011, but it won't be her first time in the Capitol. The former congressional aide once worked for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
, a top Republican in the House leadership, and used her experiences to out-raise and out-perform her male opponents in the primary and general elections. The NRCC pegged Herrera as a rising star, this summer, a prediction that proved to be right.
* Stephen Fincher, Tennessee.
If you're looking for the ultimate citizen legislator heading into the 112th Congress, look no further than Fincher, a gospel-singing farmer from Frog Jump, Tennessee, who wowed Republican leaders in 2009 during his first-ever trip to Washington to talk about running for Congress. Over the next year, the seventh-generation cotton farmer, who never attended college and has never held elective office, swamped his opponents with a talent for raising campaign cash and a farm-friendly slogan in his Tennessee district, "Plow Congress." Fincher won his primary with 60 percent of the vote and the general election with more than that, flipping a long-held Democratic seat to the GOP and winning praise from party leaders in the process.
* Jon Runyan
, New Jersey.
The former Philadelphia Eagles lineman, 36, is a political novice, but used his outsider status to trounce the local tea party candidate in his GOP primary with 59 percent of the vote, then defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. John Adler in November. "People always question my experience in politics," Runyan said in his victory speech
after the GOP primary. "Yes, I have no experience raising taxes over and over again. Yes, I have no experience increasing the debt. Do you really think the people who created these problems are going to be able to solve them?" Runyan follows in the footsteps of former NFLers Jack Kemp, Steve Largent and current Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) in the gridiron-to-Washington career path.
* Sean Duffy, Wisconsin.
Duffy may be the most photographed incoming member of the House, having made his name as a cast member of the MTV reality show "The Real World, Boston." But the former World Lumberjack champion left Hollywood behind when he married Rachel Campos (a fellow "Real World" alum) and moved home to Wisconsin to start a family and work as a lawyer. Now a father of six, Duffy has spent the last 10 years working as a local prosecutor and county district attorney. If TV veterans like Fred Grandy (Gopher from "The Love Boat") and Ben Jones (Cooter from "The Dukes of Hazard") can make it in Congress, Duffy can count on a fast rise in his new House as well.
* Ben Quayle, Arizona
. The kids of famous politicians often find themselves gliding up the ranks of American politics -- think Kennedy and Bush and you've got the idea. But Ben Quayle
, the 34-year-old son of former Vice President Dan Quayle had to raise more than a million dollars, distance himself from a racy website called "DirtyScottsdale," and fight his way out of a nine-way dog fight to win his house seat in Arizona, and that was just to get past the GOP primary. While his father was more of the shy and retiring Washington type, the younger Quayle came out swinging during his campaign, even cutting one ad attacking
Barack Obama as "the worst president in history." In the same commercial, Quayle also declared, "Someone has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place." With a promise like that, journalists and fellow lawmakers alike are waiting to see how Quayle delivers.