Updated Nov 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

A House freshman class like no other

Illustration of a microphone surrounded by election form icons.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The House of Representatives is poised for immense turnover that will likely make the chamber considerably younger and more diverse, no matter which party wins a majority in November.

By the numbers: A group of 147 non-incumbent House candidates who are either set to win safe open seats or running in competitive elections is, on average, younger and more diverse across racial and gender lines than the House as a whole.

  • Their average age is 47, compared to an average age of 58 among House members today.
  • Roughly three out of 10 candidates are non-white, and just over a third are women, compared to around 28% of the current House for both groups. Eight are openly LGBTQ+.

The big picture: This year saw the second highest number of House members opting not to run for reelection since 1996, according to OpenSecrets — leaving a lot of open seats for a new class to fill.

  • In all, 29 Democrats and 17 Republicans are retiring or running for another office this cycle.

Several candidates would usher in historic firsts for Congress.

  • Becca Balint, the Democratic nominee to replace Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), is likely to end Vermont's status as the only state that hasn't sent a woman to Congress. She would also be the state's first openly LGBT representative in Congress.
  • Maxwell Frost, the Democrat running to succeed Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), and Karoline Leavitt, the Republican challenging Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), could be the first Gen. Z members of Congress. Leavitt would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
  • In New York's 3rd district, both major party candidates are vying to be the first openly gay member of Congress from Long Island. George Santos would also be the first openly gay, non-incumbent Republican elected.

Several candidates would enter Congress as household names.

  • Some are running to reclaim their old House seats, like former Reps. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) and Max Rose (D-N.Y.).
  • So is former Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who previously represented Montana’s at-large House district.
  • Dan Goldman of New York would be returning in a different sense: He was Democrats' lead lawyer in the first Trump impeachment trial in 2019.

Others have more unconventional claims to fame:

  • Tom Patti, a Republican challenging Rep. Josh Harder (D-Calif.), was the coach and manager to boxer Mike Tyson.
  • Monica Tranel, the Democratic candidate in Montana's newly drawn 2nd district, was a two-time Olympic rower.
  • Morgan McGarvey, the Democrat running to succeed Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), garnered nearly 130,000 followers on TikTok with videos highlighting the challenges of being the Democratic leader in Kentucky's overwhelmingly Republican state senate.
  • Alek Skarlatos, a veteran and GOP candidate in Oregon's 4th district, helped subdue a gunman on a train in France in 2015 — later playing himself in a film about the attack, which was directed by Clint Eastwood.

Yes, but: At the same time Congress is on track to grow more diverse, the number of competitive districts shrank this year after many state legislatures gerrymandered their House maps. That could have ripple effects for how the next Congress functions.

  • "The safer the district, obviously, the electoral incentives shift to not losing your primary rather than not losing the general," Georgetown Law professor Josh Chafetz told Axios.
  • "That means that you're trying to pitch yourself to the median primary voter, who is going to be more extreme than the median general election voter."
  • Chafetz said that dynamic has already taken hold, citing the smaller proportion of House Republicans who voted for major bipartisan bills like CHIPS and infrastructure compared to their Senate counterparts.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas is a Democrat, not a Republican.

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