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The new faces in the 115th Congress

Jan 04, 2017

[From Modern Healthcare]

The new 115th Congress is now in session, and Republicans are in control in the House, holding a majority of 241 to 194. Though the number of women drops by one in 2017, the House will still have more diversity in its ranks, having elected more African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans. 

There are 55 new members -- here are a few of the freshman class: 

Charlie Crist, D-Florida
He’s the former Republican governor who switched parties in 2010. Trailing Marco Rubio in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, Crist left the Republican party to pursue an independent bid for the seat. Rubio won anyway. Crist also ran for governor afterward but lost to incumbent Rick Scott. In the House, he’ll represent Florida’s 13th congressional district and will serve as a Democrat.

Val Demings, D-Florida
Also hailing from Florida is Val Demings, the former Orlando police chief, and the first woman to be named to head Orlando’s police department. This was her second run for Congress. She’ll represent the new 10th congressional district, which was formed by redistricting. 

Stephanie Murphy, D-Florida
Stephanie Murphy is the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve in Congress, defeating 12-term incumbent Republican Rep. John Mica for the state’s 7th congressional district seat. Murphy’s parents fled Vietnam’s communist regime by boat when she was an infant.  

Brian Mast, R-Florida
One more from Florida -- Brian Mast is an Army veteran and double amputee who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan. He was a bomb technician serving in Kandahar, when, according to the New York Times, he stepped on a roadside bomb while crossing a bridge on a night in Sept. 2010. Mast will represent Florida’s 18th congressional district.

Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington
Pramila Jayapal, who will be filling the vacancy left by the retirement of Rep. Jim McDermott, is the first Indian-American woman elected to Congress. She previously served in Washington’s state senate. 

Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming; Jimmy Panetta, D-California
Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter won Wyoming’s only House seat, and Jimmy Panetta, son of former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, will be representing CA-20.

The Senate is also seeing some new faces -- it, too, remains under Republican control, albeit with a slimmer majority of 52-48. The House may have seen its number of women diminish, but in the Senate, there will be a record number of 21 women -- 16 Democrats and five Republicans. A record number women of color will also be serving in the Senate -- four.  

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, is the first Thai-American elected to the Senate. Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, is a double amputee who also served in the House.  

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, will be the first Latina Senator. Sen. Kamala Harris, the former California attorney general, is part African-American and part Indian-American, and she will be both the first Indian-American and the second African-American female senator elected to the Senate. These women join Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan as a child.