Trading Places: December

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Obama Leads State Lawmakers Headed to Washington


Half of the nation’s presidents have arrived at the White House with biographies that included service in a state or colonial legislature. With his Nov. 4 election victory, U.S. Senator Barack Obama joins this exclusive club.

His experience in the Illinois General Assembly is a point of pride for the nation’s 7,382 state legislators, some of whom may harbor dreams of one day following in his footsteps. President-elect Obama becomes the first former state legislator to serve in America’s highest office since Jimmy Carter, joining him as the only two since World War II. Also of note is the fact that the onetime Illinois state senator will be the first former member of the National Conference of State Legislatures to become president. Carter’s legislative career occurred before NCSL was founded.

But Obama was not the only one with state legislative experience elected to national office this year. More than six dozen sitting or former state legislators took a stab at winning a U.S. House or Senate seat in the general election. At press time, 28 were successful, and another five awaited the results of tight races.

Depending on those results, former state legislators will constitute roughly half of the freshmen class of House and Senate members. One of these, state Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, has this distinction: She follows Obama and senators such as Patty Murray (Washington) and Jon Tester (Montana), all of whom went directly from their state legislature to the U.S. Senate, bypassing the typical stepping stone of U.S. House membership.

Based on recent history, this year’s numbers are not unprecedented. They are on a par with the 2006 election, when 30 former and sitting state legislators were elected to national office. The numbers are just slightly above the 2004 class, which included Obama.
—Michael Bird and Paul Snow, NCSL

On Their Way to Washington

SENATE (4 new, 1 carry-over)
Colorado – U.S. Representative Mark Udall (D)
Idaho – ex-State Senator James Risch (R)
New Hampshire – ex-State Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D)
North Carolina – State Senator Kay R. Hagan (D)
Oregon – State Representative Jeff Merkley (D)

HOUSE (25)
Alabama 5th – State Senator Parker Griffith (D)
Arizona 1st – ex-State Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D)
Colorado 6th – ex-State Senator Michael Coffman (R)
Florida 15th – State Senator William “Bill” Posey (R)
Florida 24th – ex-State Representative Suzanne M. Kosmas (D)
Illinois 11th – State Senator Deborah Halvorson (D)
Illinois 18th – State Representative Aaron Schock (R)
Kansas 2nd – ex-State Senator Lynn Jenkins (R)
Kentucky 2nd – State Senator Brett Guthrie (R)
Louisiana 6th – State Senator Bill Cassidy (R)
Maine 1st – ex-State Senator Chellie Pingree (D)
Michigan 7th – State Senator Mark Schauer (D)
Michigan 9th – ex-State Senator Gary C. Peters (D)
Minnesota 3rd – State Representative Erik Paulsen (R)
Missouri 9th – ex-State Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R)
Nevada 3rd – State Senator Dina Titus (D)
New Jersey 3rd – State Senator John H. Adler (D)
New Jersey 7th – State Senator Leonard Lance (R)
New York 23rd – ex-State Assemblyman Paul D. Tonko (D)
Ohio 1st – State Representative Steven Driehaus (D)
Ohio 7th – State Senator Steven Austria (R)
Ohio 15th – State Senator Steve Stivers (R)
Ohio 16th – State Senator John Boccieri (D)
Oregon 5th – State Senator Kurt Schrader (D)
Wyoming At-large – ex-State Senator Cynthia M. Lummis (R)


Georgia - ex-State Representative Jim Martin (D) (runoff expected Dec.2)

Alaska At-large - State Representative Ethan Berkowitz (D)
California 4th - State Senator Tom McClintock (R)
Maryland 1st - State Senator Andrew Harris (R)