The House freshman Republican cohort of 2011 is like a class in a large high school -- full of straight arrows, bad boys and big mouths. Here are some of the high-profile personalities:
Most likely to succeed: South Dakota's Kristi Noem could easily be "best looking" or, given campaign revelations about her many speeding tickets, "worst driver." But neither would be adequate for this mother of three, who came from behind to win a primary, then raised over a million dollars in a single quarter -- in South Dakota, mind you -- to defeat a well-liked Democrat incumbent. GOP leaders chose Noem to deliver the Republican response to President Obama's radio address last month, and for once, people actually watched it. She will move quickly up the leadership ranks, unless she prefers to run for Senate in 2014.
Most likely to be expelled: Meet the bad boy of the 2010 GOP freshman class, David Rivera of Florida. A magnet for bizarre accusations, he is already under investigation by Miami-Dade prosecutors for a $500,000 contract he negotiated and helped carry out for his godmother's marketing firm. He claims he received no money for it. Rivera created tremendous ambiguity over his personal income and work history during the campaign that has never been clarified. At one point, he claimed to have worked for USAID, which the agency denied.
On the Friday before the primary election in 2002, Rivera's car collided with a truck carrying last-minute campaign mailers for his opponent's campaign for state representative. According to the news stories, it happened 10 minutes before the post office deadline for mailings. Whoops! Rivera won the primary by 238 votes.
Most likely to run statewide: Living the GOP dream, Jaime Herrera of Washington has gone from state legislative intern to White House intern to Hill staffer to state legislator to member of Congress in less than a decade. She is attractive, thoroughly inoffensive and just conservative enough to win a statewide primary. The Hispanic surname doesn't hurt, either. After Dino Rossi's three strikes, there's no surplus of Republicans eager to run statewide.
Most independent: Idaho's Raul Labrador is a true conservative with brains, legislative skills, and one of the safest Republican congressional seats in America. What's more, he owes nothing at all to his party's leaders, except payback. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor vigorously backed Labrador's abysmal, gaffe-prone primary opponent, who went down even after a visit from Sarah Palin. After Labrador won the nomination, the National Republican Congressional Committee essentially washed its hands of the race. Even the Tea Party Express endorsed the Democratic incumbent. Labrador still won by 10 points, despite being outspent 4-to-1.
As a state representative, Labrador was a small but painful thorn in the side of Republican Gov. Butch Otter, helping to defeat both his proposed gas tax increase and his candidate for state party chairman. If Boehner and company fail to steer a straight path, expect to hear a lot from Idaho's most famous Puerto Rican.
Most unlucky: Retired Army Sgt. Jeff Landry of Louisiana seems like a good reinforcement for the four Army non-coms leaving the House, but he won a district whose population took a huge hit from Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana is losing a seat in Congress, and Landry is the logical odd man out. He has the least seniority, he is an outsider, and he lives in a town that legislators could conceivably draw into any of three different congressional districts.
Most likely to put a bullet in the ceiling of the House chamber: A retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, Allen West of Florida is a bomb thrower's bomb thrower who won't have to be asked to make his mind known. For example, on his vanquished opponent: "I think he's a terrible person. ... No respect for this guy." (But tell us what you really think!)
West served in Iraq with distinction, winning a Bronze Star, but was drummed out for firing a gun to intimidate a prisoner under interrogation. A principled conservative, he is a gifted and charismatic orator who frequently fails to watch his tongue, and who made some unfortunate early staff choices after winning his election. Expect him to give stemwinders about tyranny in Washington and the importance of national defense spending.
Youngest: Michigan's Justin Amash
Oldest: Pennsylvania's Mike Kelly
Best vocalist: Tennessee's Stephen Fincher
Best campaign: Illinois' Bobby Schilling
Worst ads in a successful campaign: Arizona's Ben Quayle
Hardest to pronounce: Minnesota's Chip Cravaack
Most likely to brandish an ax on the House floor: Wisconsin's Sean Duffy
David Freddoso is The Examiner's online opinion editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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