Seven new members of Congress to watch

With the 2014 midterm elections all but wrapped up, the Monitor looks at which new members of Congress could make the most waves.

6. Gwen Graham

Andrew Wardlow, Panama City, Fla.,/The News Herald/AP
Democratic US House candidate Gwen Graham greets voters outside a voting precinct in Panama City, Fla., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.

There were few bright spots for Democrats on election night, but one may have been Gwen Graham, who unseated two-term Republican Rep. Steve Southerland in Florida's Second District.

Ms. Graham benefited from a narrow fundraising advantage and some campaign missteps from Representative Southerland to win one of the most expensive House races this year: Outside groups spent $8.5 million on TV ads and other campaign activities. Graham garnered 51 percent of the vote.

Not only was Graham, daughter of popular former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, able to pry a House seat away from Republicans, but she also may have the energy and political pedigree to become a key national figure for the party over the next few years. She built her campaign platform around a plan for strong economic recovery in the Second District, which has a suffering seafood industry and high levels of rural poverty, and she worked hard to distance herself from Mr. Obama and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

She has called for improved job training through universities and community colleges, as well as an incremental increase to the minimum wage – which could emerge as a key Democratic issue after four states passed minimum wage increases this election.

Like most candidates this year, Graham has pledged to help break congressional gridlock. Part of her plan to do this includes not supporting Ms. Pelosi for the Democratic Party's top leadership spot in the House. Indeed, it may be interesting to see how Graham works with her fellow Democrats after a campaign in which she supported Republican efforts to change Obama's health-care law and criticized the president for being "way too slow" to react to threat of the Islamic State militant group.

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