- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Senate today will welcome 10 new faces soon to join its ranks — eight Democrats, one independent and one Republican. They include a novelist and former Navy secretary, three soon-to-be former House members, a state treasurer and an organic farmer.

Much like new college freshmen, the group arrives this week for orientation — but theirs is into the new Democrat-controlled 110th session of the Senate.

Six Democrats in the new group defeated Republican incumbents to help usher in that new majority.

Sen.-elect James H. Webb Jr. of Virginia defeated Sen. George Allen in an extremely tight race. Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran, is a former Republican who was Navy secretary under President Reagan. The 60-year-old is a strong opponent of President Bush’s invasion of Iraq and switched parties because of it. Mr. Webb also has written six novels.

Bob Casey Jr., Pennsylvania’s treasurer and son of a popular former governor, ran as an anti-Bush agent of change, defeating conservative Rick Santorum, the Senate’s third-ranking Republican. But the 46-year-old Mr. Casey, a two-term state auditor, is more conservative than his party on some issues, including abortion.

Republicans lost their most liberal senator when Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee was defeated by former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, a 51-year-old staunch Democrat. Mr. Whitehouse, who also was a U.S. attorney under President Clinton, ran a stridently anti-Bush campaign, but because Mr. Chafee frequently bucked the president, some surmise the voting patterns of this Senate seat may change little.

From the “Big Sky country” of Montana comes Jon Tester, the president of the state Senate who also grows organic wheat, barley and hay on his family farm there. The 50-year-old from Big Sandy — population 710 — demands a plan to bring the troops home from Iraq, is pro-choice and supports embryonic stem-cell research. He is pro-gun and will likely be outspoken on agriculture issues.

Claire McCaskill, who won one of the nation’s tightest Senate races this year, is the Missouri state auditor and defeated Republican Sen. Jim Talent. As auditor she sought to root out wasteful spending, and because her Senate race centered on the embryonic stem-cell research debate, the 53-year-old will likely continue to push that.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, a House member since 1992 and former Ohio secretary of state, defeated Republican Sen. Mike DeWine. Mr. Brown, a liberal who earned a 100 percent rating last year from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, has sponsored bus trips to Canada to buy cheaper prescription drugs and opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The 54-year-old author of two political books is also an Eagle Scout.

The Senate also will welcome a few Democrats who are replacing retiring Democrats. Amy Klobuchar, 46, is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota and replaces retiring Sen. Mark Dayton. The two are “both are staunch Democrats with a solid progressive record,” said Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party Chairman Brian Melendez.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, leaves the House and enters the Senate after defeating Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in a race to replace retiring Democrat Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. Mr. Cardin, 63, served on the House’s tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, where he blasted Republicans’ Medicare prescription-drug plan as “a raw deal for seniors” and fought against the Republican Party’s Social Security plan.

Finally, Rep. Bernard Sanders, 65 and a self-described “democratic socialist,” enters the Senate as the longest-serving independent in the history in the House of Representatives, having been first elected in 1991. Like his predecessor, independent Sen. James M. Jeffords, he will caucus with the Democrats.

The lone new Republican is Tennessee’s Bob Corker, former mayor of Chattanooga who keeps the seat of retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in Republican hands. Mr. Corker, a 54-year-old businessman, became the state finance commissioner in the mid-1990s and as mayor cracked down on overspending and instituted merit-based bonuses for teachers.

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