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New Members Show Up for Orientation Day on Capitol Hill

Rep.-elect Kristi Noem, R-S.D., talks with reporters during freshmen orientation at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 15, 2010. (NewsHour photo by Quinn Bowman)

Monday was the first day of new member orientation on Capitol Hill, where a huge class of freshman representatives are learning everything from House rules to locations of the bathrooms.

The new members of the House, almost all of whom are Republicans, were swarmed by reporters today as they filled out paperwork, took official photos, and heard presentations on how the House of Representatives operates. There will be 94 new members in the 112th Congress – 85 Republicans and nine Democrats, according to The Associated Press.

New senators were also at the Capitol Monday for meetings.

Many reporters were meeting freshman members for the first time – most of whom could only be identified by a silver and blue-colored name badge hanging from their necks.

If he maintains his slim 797 vote lead after a recently-approved recount, Republican Blake Farenthold will be the second person to ever represent Texas’ 27th district. His opponent, Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz, has held the seat since 1983.

Farenthold wasn’t shy about touting how the new GOP-dominated freshman class will approach their newfound power – right after he introduced himself to members of the media.

“If it goes the way I think the people who elected me want it to go, I am going to be right here in front of you guys yellin’ and screamin’ – and I am Blake Farenthold, Texas-27,” he said.

“I think we all realize that we have a mandate from the people, especially those of us who came in and defeated entrenched incumbents,” Farenthold added. “I think we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Many of the Republican House members-elect, who will officially begin their duties in January 2011, are new to politics.

On Nov. 17 the freshmen Republicans will have a chance to elect one of their own to serve as their representative in the majority leadership structure. Rep.-elect Kristi Noem, the incoming at-large House member from South Dakota and a Tea Party favorite, is running for the seat against Rep.-elect Tim Scott of South Carolina. The GOP freshmen will also elect a class president and representatives to other party committees.

Republican Rep.-elect Steve Southerland from Florida’s 2nd District said he wasn’t used to people putting microphones and cameras in his face. Southerland is a businessman and has never held elected office.

“I am just a normal guy, are you kidding me? I’m just Steve. It is rather humbling to be here and know that I have been given a great opportunity to serve and that is rather surreal,” he said.

Southerland said winning their races in early November has brought the freshman class together.

“When you go thorough persecution, when you got through conflict it naturally brings people together,” he said.

“Last night when we all got together – (the election) was like surviving a hurricane, you know? So when the hurricane passes you know and you kinda come out from underneath the roof and you get the casserole dish out of the front yard and you say, we made it, we’ve survived this storm. Last night we just really savored the fact that we made it through the storm.”

A previous version of this story did not reflect that there is a recount in Texas’ 27th district.

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