GOP victories brought in younger, more diverse elected officials

Carrie Dann --- NBC News

The first female combat veteran. A daughter of Haitian immigrants. A 37-year old Harvard wunderkind. The youngest woman ever.

It’s an array that in past years might have sounded like the stuff of a Democrat’s dream press release, but it’s actually a sampling of just a few of the much-talked-about Republicans who won contested races Tuesday night.

As the dust settles after their rout of Democrats, the GOP can boast of an influx of dynamic congressional talent that looks younger and more heterogeneous than ever.

The average age of the new class of Senate Republican freshmen clocks in at just under 50 years old. Compare that to the average age of senators in the 113th Congress: a relatively creaky 62. And even that figure seems like spring-chicken material compared to the average age of the Democratic Party’s congressional leaders: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (74), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (75), soon-to-be-former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (74), and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (69).

That new GOP freshman class includes Joni Ernst, the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress and a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom; Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who at 37 will be the youngest member of the Senate; Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who will serve as the state’s first female senator; and newly promoted former Reps. James Lankford (age 46) and Cory Gardner (age 40). Originally appointed in 2012, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina also just became South Carolina’s first elected black senator.

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