WASHINGTON—Rep. Allen West had barely taken office last year when his own party laid the foundation for his defeat. The Republican-controlled Florida state legislature marked off brutal district lines for the outspoken, Tea Party–favored West, despite gaining two seats after the 2010 census. On Nov. 6, one of only two African-American Republicans in Congress became one of many redistricting casualties.
Democrats will emerge from the 2012 election with a net gain of about seven seats in the House (following their negative-63 performance in 2010), but Republicans maintained a strong majority (233-194 at press time) in an election that again creates significant turnover in Washington.
The 113th Congress will feature 80-plus new House members when all the votes are counted, thanks to a flurry of retirements, members seeking other offices, and redistricting.
Eight House incumbents were defeated in head-to-head primary battles, nine went down in head-to-head pairings on Election Day, and many more—like West—found themselves forced to run in partially or completely redrawn districts. West, who is contesting the result of his narrow loss, is one of at least 18 House freshmen (14 Republicans) headed for a quick exit from Congress.
Among the possible future stars ready to take his place, Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton is a strong candidate: At 35, he’s a cattle farmer, Harvard Law School graduate, and former Army Ranger who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cotton has a penchant for articulating strong conservative policies—a skill earning him Tea Party support and a seat in Congress without prior political experience. He may be poised for stardom.
Another Republican to watch is Utah’s Chris Stewart, 53, a New York Times best-selling co-author (The Miracle of Freedom and 7 Miracles That Saved America), a 14-year Air Force veteran, and CEO of a Utah-based consulting firm. Stewart campaigned as a staunch conservative, but he refused to sign an anti-tax pledge inked by most Washington conservatives because he says he believes lawmakers need every available tool to lower the deficit.
One of the notable Democrats headed to Washington is Joe Kennedy III, the 32-year-old grandson of Robert Kennedy. Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District elected him, giving the famed family an elected politician again after its 64-year streak on the national political scene was broken in 2011.
In our election preview issue (Nov. 3) WORLD highlighted 12 races to watch. Aside from West and Cotton, here’s how they fared:
Virginia-2: Virginia’s coastal residents responded well to Republican Scott Rigell’s reform-minded policies and chose him for a second term over fellow businessman Paul Hirschbiel.
Illinois-8: Freshman Republican Joe Walsh made a series of embarrassing statements (most notably an ill-advised, mid-October abortion comment), turning a close race into a 10-point victory for Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth.
Utah-4: Mia Love fell less than 3,000 votes short of knocking off six-term incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson, failing to become the first Republican African-American woman in Congress.
California-7: Only 184 votes separated four-term Republican Dan Lungren and challenger Ami Bera of more than 176,000 votes cast in their district on Election Day. With absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted—and all votes likely recounted—it may be weeks before a winner is declared.
Arizona-1: Fresh district lines and a new opponent helped former Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick regain the seat she lost in 2010.
New York-24: Trailing by 14,000 in the initial vote count, conservative Republican Ann Marie Buerkle conceded on Nov. 9 her race against former Rep. Dan Maffei, whom she beat in 2010.
Massachusetts-6: A third-party candidate helped Democrat John Tierney win a ninth term despite his wife’s legal problems.
Colorado-6: Republican Mike Coffman survived Democrat-friendly redistricting to narrowly win a third term in office.
Indiana-2: Pro-life Republican Jackie Walorski scored a 1-point win (49 percent to 48 percent) over Brendan Mullen.
North Carolina-8: Richard Hudson was one of three Republican pick-ups in North Carolina, soundly defeating incumbent Larry Kissell.