New Faces in House Come From Diverse Backgrounds
WASHINGTON (AP) _ When the 100th Congress assembles in January, its House ranks will include a Cheyenne Indian, a millionaire glass magnate, a sharecropper’s son, a Shakespearean professor and the heir to the Kennedy political legacy.
Among the 50 new members who will take their seats, most have followed the tried-and-true route to political prominence: election to local office, then to statehouses through organization and careful local spadework.
But among the House freshman class of 27 Democrats and 23 Republicans - two of whom are making return appearances - several stand out because of their uniqueness, their heritage or their accomplishments.
The most recognizable name will be that of Joseph P. Kennedy II, who as the oldest male in his generation of Kennedys wears the family political mantle. Kennedy easily won the Boston seat of retiring House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. and will automatically be more visible than most House newcomers.
Kennedy already will have a valuable connection on Capitol Hill in the form of his uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., but also may have something to prove, since he has no previous experience in elective office.
Connie Morella is a Republican lawmaker elected from a Maryland suburb of Washington. Aides describe her as a driven overachiever who campaigns with gusto and is happiest with a full agenda.
Morella and her husband reared nine children - three of her own and six of her sister, who died of cancer. She is a Shakespearean scholar on leave from Montgomery College, where she taught at the same time she served in the Maryland Legislature.
Two days after being elected, Morella was out at subway stations shaking the hands of comuters and thanking them for their votes. ″Someone has to pull her off the street and get her back to the office,″ said Sohrab Sobhani, a campaign volunteer.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, whose father was a Northern Cheyenne Indian, spent several years in a California orphanage as a child when his mother, a Portuguese immigrant, was hospitalized. He was captain of the U.S. judo team in the 1964 Olympics, a sport he took up after being bested in a fight with a Japanese-American acquaintance as a child.
Campbell, a Democrat from Colorado, will be only the second American Indian to serve in the House, according to the American Indian Historical Society, but he made little of his heritage during the campaign, saying he did not want to be stereotyped.
Campbell runs a ranch near Ignacio, Colo., and also is a successful designer of jewelry.
Amory Houghton Jr., 60, is a newcomer to elective office but has a long business and political bloodline in western New York. His great-grandfath er founded Corning Glass Works, where he has been chief executive, and his father was U.S. ambassador to France. His grandfather once held the same House seat for one term in 1919-20.
Representing Atlanta will be John Lewis, who literally bears the scars of the 1960s civil rights movement. One of 10 children of an Alabama sharecropper, Lewis earned a theology degree and became a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee along with Julian Bond, whom he defeated in a bitter Democratic run-off election this fall.
Lewis was beaten unconscious four times and arrested more than 40 times in civil rights demonstrations and marches, and later worked for Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and was head of the federal social agency, ACTION, during the Carter administration.
Fred Grandy, who left Sioux City, Iowa, to attend an exclusive prep school at age 14 and went on to Hollywood as an actor, fought off the ″carpetbagger″ label to win election to the House from a largely rural Iowa district.
He was best known for playing the bumbling purser Gopher Smith on TV’s ″The Love Boat,″ an image that caused trouble during the campaign. A Republican, he was the roommate of David Eisenhower at Exeter and was best man at Eisenhower’s wedding to Julie Nixon.
The new Congress also will include two former sports figures. Tom McMillen, onetime player for professional basketball teams in New York, Atlanta and Washington, will be at 6-foot-11 the tallest member of the new Congress. And Jim Bunning, who pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964, is a new Republican House member from Kentucky.
While many of the new members are state legislators climbing the political ladder, one appears to be climbing down: Gov. Joseph E. Brennan of Maine. Brennan is barred from seeking a third term as governor, and declined to make a Senate bid.
He says he sees in the House position a chance to be more of an advocate than he was able to be in the largely administrative governor’s post. ″It’s all government, it’s all public policy and it’s all making choices,″ said the veteran politician.
Two members of the new class will be back for repeat performances. Wayne Owens, a Democrat, won election from Salt Lake City to a seat he held for one term in 1973-74. And James Clarke, a Democratic farmer, comes back to a western North Carolina seat he first won in 1982 and held for just one term.