Ideally, the careers of our politicians are built on hard work, leadership and the values of their constituents. But there is no denying that the most important moment is election night – the day that decides if they will get the chance to put those values to work. The hype of election season may overshadow what our representatives are actually doing, but the results are the best way to track the direction this country is headed.
Who will become a household name by the time their term is up? Who will you see duking it out over the issues on the evening news? Let’s look at three Republicans and three Democrats who picked up a boost of political momentum both at home and in the eyes of the whole nation.

Joni Ernst
“I’m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.” That’s the line that introduced most Americans to the Iowa state senator and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The bizarre choice of imagery seemed like a joke to many who saw the clip, and late-night talk show hosts were quick to laugh at her expense, but the ad secured the number one resource for a Senate campaign: attention.
“I’ll know how to cut pork,” she continued in the ad, detailing her goals to reduce spending and repeal Obamacare. “Washington is full of big spenders. Let’s make ‘em squeal.” For all the viewers who were laughing at Ernst, a solid base of conservatives were energized by her values and demeanor. Seven months later, Iowans elected her to the U.S. Senate.
A viral video might not be the most glorious first impression for a nationally recognized politician, but in 2014, it is an effective start. With a Republican majority in both houses, Ernst may just be able to follow up on her campaign promises and bring home the bacon for her voters.
Ernst’s service in Kuwait makes her the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate, and she is also the first female to represent Iowa in Congress. Pundits have already started using Ernst as a counterpoint to the GOP’s “War on Women,” though females still favor Democrats at the polls.

Susana Martinez
With the mass exodus of moderate Democrat voters that has flipped so many blue seats to red, it’s fitting that one of the country’s most influential governors is a former Democrat, herself. Susana Martinez switched her party membership to Republican in 1995, back when she was a Deputy District Attorney, and since then she has won every public office she has sought. In 2011 she won the gubernatorial race for the first time, and in this past election she trounced her opponent, Gary King, by a 15-point margin. All in a state that voted twice for Obama.
Martinez manages to connect with New Mexico’s women while still standing firm against elective abortion, and earned the votes of many Hispanics even with her plans to secure the US-Mexican border. That charisma plus staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and medical marijuana has had Republicans across the country holding her up as an exemplary executive.
She made headlines in 2012 by selling the state’s luxury jet, and she even earned a spot on Time magazine’s 2013 list of most influential people.
The GOP has been vocal about goals to court more women and Hispanic voters, especially after the fate-tipping losses in those demos that Mitt Romney suffered in the 2012 presidential election. Martinez may be the perfect cure to those shortcomings, and even convince other ex-Democrats to vote red in 2016. She has denied plans to run for president or VP, but she has formed a close political tie to New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, another blue-state Republican who is already polling well for the GOP presidential nomination. Could she be the running mate of his dreams?

Elise Stefanik
The average age of a US Congressman has been creeping toward 60 since 1981, and the average Senator is even older. The American people have been hurting for a young, exciting political leader to stir things up in a room full of baby-boomers, and Democrats have yet to respond; their biggest names for the 2016 presidency are Hillary Clinton, 67, and Joe Biden, 71. Republicans, though, are offering new leaders that pull that average age way down.
Elise Stefanik, 30, became the youngest woman elected to Congress, representing the 21st district of New York as of this past election. She even took the House seat from a retired Democrat. After graduating from Harvard, Stefanik worked in the office of President George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff, then directed vice presidential debate prep for the Romney/Ryan campaign in 2012. If those credentials weren’t enough, Romney himself worked on Stefanik’s own campaign, in addition to a heavy endorsement from House Speaker John Boehner.
Stefanik was criticized for vagueness on the campaign trail, and for clinging to pre-packaged talking points without detailing the “fresh ideas” she wanted to bring to Congress. Still, she’s years ahead of her peers in finding her bearings.

Andrew Cuomo
The last Democrat to serve more than one term as New York’s governor was Mario Cuomo, who narrowly missed out on the 1992 presidential nomination because of a vow to pass a state budget before announcing any campaigns. Mario’s son, Andrew Cuomo may fulfill that dream if the common rumors materialize. After he was re-elected as governor against Republican challenger Rob Astorino, backers have a renewed confidence that he will face off against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Cuomo has overs=een several bureaucratic victories in office, restructuring New York’s tax codes, negotiating with a large union of state employees and passing a widely agreeable budget. While these endeavors aren’t as flashy as legalizing same-sex marriage, another promise he fulfilled, many see his time in office as a record of good governance. New York Democrats have speculated that Cuomo may have a shot at a 2016 presidential run.
Now dealing with a Republican majority in the New York Senate, Cuomo will be able to campaign on the spirit of bipartisanship, an issue that will be appealing to moderate voters with the coming gridlock between Congress and the president.

Cory Booker
New Jersey’s Sen. Cory Booker has nearly 1.5 million followers on Twitter. His 2014 Republican challenger, Jeff Bell? 814. In the political arena following Obama’s first election, it became clear that the Internet and social media are now crucial elements to any campaign, especially if you want any young people to show up and vote. Somehow the Republican Party hasn’t quite learned their lesson, and continue to flounder in cyberspace.
Booker didn’t win on cool points alone, though. He has eight years of service as the mayor of Newark under his belt, as well as degrees from Stanford and Yale Law that give him the credibility he needs to balance a hip, young public persona.
The comparisons to Obama’s Senate career are clear: Booker is eloquent, well-educated, African-American and highly in-tune with young voters. He’s even had surprisingly civil discussions with Rand Paul (R-Kent.) over Twitter that many saw as feats of bipartisanship.
Booker may be a little fresh to the public eye to make a run for President now, but as he gains credibility he may have a chance at the office in six, ten or 14 years. He’s only 45, so there’s plenty of time to build up his name on Capitol Hill and convince donors of his leadership skills. If Gov. Chris Christie’s approval is hurt by the Bridge-gate scandal when he runs for his third term, Booker may take the chance to swoop in.

Gwen Graham
Women voters have consistently voiced their discontent with the GOP at the polls, and the party has responded with female candidates if not with any policy changes. Though several Republican women will take office for the first time in this Congress, Gwen Graham was the sole Democrat to overtake a sitting Republican in the House, and the race boiled down to gender.
Graham’s opponent, incumbent Steve Southerland, earned some bad press with Florida women after he hosted a males-only fundraiser with invitations that told “the Misses not to wait up.” If he regretted the word choice, he didn’t show it, answering criticisms with the puzzling remark, “Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? . . . How many men were there?”
The PR fumble, and failure to recover, allowed the Graham campaign to shine a light on Southerland’s voting record, that included a nay to the Violence Against Women Act. The bill aimed to strengthen defenses for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, and Southerland said he voted against it because he did not have time to read it.
While Graham slid by with less than a 3,000 vote lead over Southerland, the election showed that tolerance is thinning for shows of chauvinism and anti-women voting.

Bonus: A Midterm of “Firsts”

Mia Love (R-Utah) became the first black Republican woman to be elected to Congress. She will be the first Haitian-American in Congress as well.

Massachusetts elected the first openly gay attorney general for any state, Democrat Maura Healey.
North Carolina held the most expensive Senate race ever between incumbent Dem. Kay Hagan and Rep. Thom Tillis, who won the seat. The candidates spent $32 million and outside groups contributed $81 million more.

In 2015, for the first time, 100 women will occupy seats in the two houses of Congress.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.