Meet the 8 New Members of the Senate
Tristan Justice / Troy Worden /
While Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s elections, the GOP likely strengthened its Senate majority by three seats, to gain a 54-seat majority.
One race, in Mississippi, won’t be decided until Nov. 27, as incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, appointed in April, is set to face Democrat Mike Espy in a runoff because no candidate won a majority Tuesday.
Here’s what you should know about the Senate’s incoming freshman class of seven Republicans and one Democrat:
1. Indiana’s Mike Braun
Indiana’s newest U.S. senator, Republican Mike Braun, ran as an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump’s agenda and criticized incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly for not supporting the president.
Braun particularly seized on Donnelly’s vote against the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a vote that many say tipped the scales of a previously tight race heavily in Braun’s favor.
As a former state representative and Indiana businessman with an estimated net worth of nearly $66 million, Braun won in a competitive Republican primary against two members of Congress on a message of being a Washington outsider, investing millions of his own money into the race.
Braun, 64, carried his anti-Washington message into the general election. He went after Donnelly relentlessly on taxes, his opposition to Trump’s efforts on health care, and the senator’s “no” vote on Kavanaugh.
After Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Donnelly tried to retain support from conservative voters in the red state, releasing an ad in mid-October backing Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and supporting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
2. Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., could become the most conservative member of the Senate.
Blackburn’s election holds this Tennessee Senate seat for Republicans after the retirement of Bob Corker, one of Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics in the upper chamber.
Blackburn, 66, has represented Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District in the House of Representatives since 2003. She received an 82 percent conservative lifetime rating from Heritage Action for America.
Before joining Congress, Blackburn served as a Tennessee state senator from 1999 to 2003.
Running against Democrat Phil Bredesen, a popular former governor, Blackburn sought to nationalize the race at every opportunity. Bredesen, by contrast, worked to distance himself from his own party, criticizing Democrats for opposing the confirmation of Kavanaugh.
3. Utah’s Mitt Romney
Six years after two failed presidential runs, Mitt Romney is finally headed to Washington as the junior senator from Utah.
Romney, 71, who has long held a residence in Utah, will take the seat of retiring Republican Orrin Hatch to become one of the most well-known Republican members of Congress.
The former Massachusetts governor unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 before winning it in 2012.
Romney is widely expected to be a Republican critic of the president, much as Corker, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were.
Romney was a leader of the “never Trump” movement during the 2016 presidential primary season, labeling Trump as “a con man” and “a fake.” Trump nevertheless endorsed Romney’s Senate run, as he did the 2012 presidential bid.
Utah’s senator-elect went after the president during the campaign for calling some in the media the “enemy of the people.”
“I cannot conceive of thinking or saying that the media or any responsible news organization is an enemy,” Romney wrote in a blog post. “The media is essential to our Republic, to our freedom, to the cause of freedom abroad, and to our national security.”
Romney, however, has backed away from previous critical comments on the president and praised Trump’s policies as “pretty effective” following an Arizona campaign rally in October.
4. Florida’s Rick Scott
In the closest Senate race of the election cycle, Florida Gov. Rick Scott narrowly defeated the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Bill Nelson, by a 0.42 percent margin with all precincts reporting.
The outcome possibly could change as the race is headed for a recount; Florida law requires a recount when the margin of victory is within 0.5 percent.
Scott, 65, served two terms as governor before challenging Nelson for the Senate seat. He won his third statewide victory in a row Tuesday night after narrowly defeating Democratic opponents in 2010 and 2014.
Scott ran largely as a Washington outsider and touted his record as governor, presiding over the state when 1 million jobs were added and several natural disasters struck. The governor put some distance between himself and Trump when the president claimed Democrats and the media were exaggerating death toll numbers from Hurricane Maria.
Scott is a former health care executive. He and his wife have a combined net worth between $254.3 million and $510 million, according to The New York Times, and he largely self-financed his statewide campaigns.
The Times reported that Scott spent more than $70 million of his own money in his first gubernatorial campaign and $12.8 million more for re-election, winning each race by little more than 1 percent. Scott donated more than $50 million to his Senate race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
5. Arizona’s Martha McSally
Rep. Martha McSally was expected to eke out a narrow victory over her Democrat opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, although Sinema pulled slightly ahead of McSally as counting continued Thursday.
McSally, 52, has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 2015. She is one of the highest-ranking female pilots in the history of the Air Force.
McSally and Sinema vied for the seat of retiring Jeff Flake, a vocal Republican naysayer of Trump.
Sinema, who has represented the state’s 9th Congressional District since 2013, is the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress. She grabbed national headlines for derogatory comments about Arizonans. The Washington Examiner also reported that Sinema invited “witches” to one of her anti-Iraq War rallies in 2003.
For her part, McSally notably drew attention by telling Republicans in Washington to “grow a pair of ovaries” in an online campaign ad announcing her candidacy for Senate.
McSally has a reputation as a Trump critic, though she embraced the president after announcing her campaign. In 2016, she refused to endorse Trump and called his infamously crude “Access Hollywood” remarks “disgusting” and “unacceptable.” She has voted with Trump 97.8 percent of the time since he took office.
6. Nevada’s Jacky Rosen
Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, prevailed in her contest with the Republican incumbent, Sen. Dean Heller. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Rosen had 50.4 percent to Heller’s 45 percent.
Rosen, 61, has represented Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District since 2017.
Heller was appointed to his Senate seat in 2011, and survived President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 even though Obama carried the state by nearly 7 points.
Heller had said he was “100 percent against Clinton, 99 percent against Trump” a few weeks before the 2016 election. However, Heller referred to the president as a “great leader” in September, and Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, stumped for him in the weeks before Tuesday’s election.
Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Rosen and campaigned with her last month. Rosen said she supported Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, and voted against Republicans’ efforts to repeal the law in 2017. She criticized Heller for doing the opposite.
Rosen has condemned what she called Trump’s “politics of fear and division,” and toed the Democratic Party line on many issues. However, the political analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com found that she voted with Trump’s legislative agenda 42.4 percent of the time.
The Rosen campaign also said she does not believe U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished, bucking many prominent figures in her party.
7. North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., handily defeated Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, winning 55.4 percent of the vote to Heitkamp’s 44.6 percent.
Heitkamp had voted against confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, saying that “both sides horribly handled the process around the nomination.”
Heitkamp mistakenly outed sexual abuse survivors who had not wanted to be identified in a newspaper ad three weeks before Election Day. She apologized for what she called a “very flagrant error of the campaign.”
In contrast, Cramer was an outspoken skeptic of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, calling the allegations “even more absurd” than Anita Hill’s 1991 accusations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
Cramer, 57, has represented North Dakota’s sole congressional district since 2013. He previously directed both the state’s tourism and economic development agencies, and was chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party from 1991 to 1993.
Trump asked Cramer, an early backer of his run for presidency, to draft his campaign’s energy plan. It called for U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a promise that the president kept in June 2017.
Cramer was a supporter of Trump’s 2017 executive order temporarily restricting travel to the U.S. from seven terrorism-prone, Muslim-majority countries.
He pledged to support Trump “100 percent of the time” at a June rally in Fargo, North Dakota, after the president endorsed him.
8. Missouri’s Josh Hawley
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley unseated two-term Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, 51.4 percent to 45.5 percent.
McCaskill’s loss was widely viewed as a result of her vote against confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She also voted no on confirming Neil Gorsuch in 2017.
McCaskill has represented Missouri in the Senate since 2006. Toward the end of the race, she released a radio ad saying she was “not one of those crazy Democrats,” in an attempt to distance herself from her party’s fiercely anti-Trump rhetoric.
Hawley, 38, boasts an impressive resume: He clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote a well-received book on presidential history titled “Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness,” and was part of the prevailing side in the landmark religious freedom case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores.
Hawley was an intern at The Heritage Foundation as part of the think tank’s Young Leaders Program in the summer of 2000. He worked in Heritage’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics under its founding director, constitutional scholar Matthew Spalding, then vice president of American studies.
“As a Heritage intern, Josh was passionate about conservative principles,” Marie Fishpaw, Heritage’s domestic policy director, told The Daily Signal in an email. “You can see that commitment in the campaign he ran. It will be great to see the good things he does as senator for the state of Missouri.”