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Five U.S. Senate Newcomers To Watch In 2013 And Beyond

Danny Lee |
November 13, 2012 | 5:00 p.m. PST

Senior Staff Reporter

Tammy Baldwin's election win in Wisconsin stalled GOP momentum in the Badger State and padded the Democrats' lead in the Senate. (Jyames/Creative Commons)
Tammy Baldwin's election win in Wisconsin stalled GOP momentum in the Badger State and padded the Democrats' lead in the Senate. (Jyames/Creative Commons)

The makeup of new U.S. senators that will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2013 will feature several "firsts," and not just because they will be making their debuts in the upper chamber of Congress.

Massachusetts will send its first woman and Texas will send its first Latino to the U.S. Senate in January. Meanwhile, Wisconsin will send its first female to the Senate, who also would be the first openly gay lawmaker to serve in that position.

Here are five newly-elected senators who could be major players within their parties -- and perhaps in national politics -- moving forward.

Angus King (I-Maine)

King captured Maine's Senate seat after winning a six-person race with over 50 percent of the vote.

The independent will decide this week whether to caucus with Republicans or Democrats, but representatives of both parties expect him to align with the Democrats. That scenario would give Democrats a 55-45 advantage in the upper chamber.

But the 68-year-old made no assurances that he would be an automatic vote for either party, stating that Maine voters sent him to Washington to be part of a centrist coalition.

"When I was governor as an independent I worked with both parties. I worked sometimes with Democrats and sometimes with Republicans," he told CNN.

Siding with the GOP likely would not be in King's best interest if he's looking for a coveted committee assignment. A source close to King said the Maine Independent is positioning himself for a seat on the Senate Finance Committee and has been in talks with Majority Leader Harry Reid about caucusing with Democrats.

Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts)

Warren secured 54 percent of the vote to unseat Republican incumbent Scott Brown and retake a Senate seat once held by the late Ted Kennedy.

Warren's support of a modernized version of the Glass-Steagall Act, which would prevent banks from dipping into retirement and life savings accounts for speculation purposes, has not made her too many new banker friends.

The Harvard professor is a fierce proponent of regulating Wall Street and a candidate for the Senate Banking and Judiciary committees. She is popular among liberals for standing up to big banks during the financial crisis and helped spearhead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to monitor student loans, mortgages and credit cards for unfair practices against consumers.

“Wall Street CEOs -- the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs -- still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them,” Warren said at the convention. “Anyone here have a problem with that? Well I do.”

Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz defeated Democratic challenger Paul Sadler, 57 percent to 41 percent, to become the first Latino to win a Senate seat in Texas. He will be the third Latino in the Senate, along with Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The 41-year-old acknowledged his party's shortcomings in courting the Latino vote during the presidential election, stating that the GOP needs to do better at articulating its message.

"I think the values in the Hispanic community are fundamentally conservative," he said. "But you've got to have candidates that connect with that community in a real and genuine way and communicate that the values between the candidate and the community are one and the same."

Described as an eloquent speaker, as well as a popular figure among Tea Partiers, Cruz could factor into Republicans' strategy to court Latino voters. But his views on immigration could make it a challenge trying to erase the GOP's disadvantage in that demographic. Cruz is against amnesty and has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama's deferred action policy.

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin)

Baldwin made history on Election Night as she became the first openly gay politician elected to the U.S. Senate. Her narrow win over former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson also made her the first woman to represent the Badger State in the Senate.

"Having a seat at the table matters and I think we will see a Senate that is more reflective of America. We're certainly not there yet, but this will be a change that moves us forward," she told CNN.

Baldwin's victory may have signified a halt in GOP momentum in the midwestern state, after Republican Gov. Scott Walker's successful bid to thwart a recall effort led some to speculate that Wisconsin could be in play during the presidential election.

Considered one of the most liberal lawmakers in the country, Baldwin once co-sponsored a bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney and supported Obama's health care provision that would allow young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26.

Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska)

Fischer defeated Democrat Bob Kerrey with 58 percent of the vote to become Nebraska's first female senator since 1954.

During her Senate campaign, Fischer vowed to reduce the size of the federal government and eliminate agencies like the Federal Highway Administration. She also said she would repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Act and No Child Left Behind.

Fischer will be the lone female Republican to join the Senate in January, while the Democrats will add four female senators. The 61-year-old could play a role in GOP efforts to repair its national image among women after Republican Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin made controversial remarks about rape and abortion during the 2012 campaign.


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