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Meet the new faces of the US Congress

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Maxwell Frost got into politics at age 15, horrified by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut./AFP
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Jan 03, 2023 - 04:07 AM

WASHINGTON — With its wealthy, graying Ivy League membership, the US Congress typically boasts all the diversity of a prog rock nostalgia tour.

But the House of Representatives and Senate will have a touch of exotic charm in the new intake — even among the straight, white men.

The Gen Z lawmaker 

Maxwell Frost will be the first member of Congress from “Generation Z” — today’s teens and young adults who make up a demographic group that the freshman legislator says he is very keen on representing.

The 25-year-old African-American, raised by an adoptive mother of Cuban descent, is likely to stand out among the sea of white faces and graying pates in the House of Representatives, where the average age of the last intake was 58.

“We need that representation in Congress so that way we have a government that looks like the country and knows what the country is going through,” the young Democrat Frost told AFP ahead of the election.

Frost got into politics at age 15, horrified by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut. He plans to use his influence to combat gun violence but also ran on promoting social justice and fighting climate change.

The bald behemoth 

John Fetterman will be doing some standing out of his own, as Washington’s joint-newest Democratic senator stands at six foot nine inches (2.05 meters) and boasts a baby-smooth shaven head.

The 50-year-old Pennsylvanian is also known for rarely leaving the house in anything except his trademark get-up of shorts and a hoodie, even in a blizzard.

Fetterman’s political positions got him noticed too as he saw off Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, in one of the midterm election’s most closely-watched races, on a platform that included legalizing cannabis.

The ex-lieutenant governor’s promotion to the big time, in a seat vacated by a retiring Republican, delivered President Joe Biden a Democratic majority in the upper chamber and a chance of pressing his agenda.

The author and Trump convert 

A newcomer to politics, 38-year-old J.D. Vance made his name with the 2016 publication of “Hillbilly Elegy,” a best-selling fictionalized account of his upbringing in working-class Ohio that has become a symbol of white America’s decline.

After a career as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, Vance was an avowed opponent of former president Donald Trump, once calling him “America’s Hitler.”

But he became a convert after Trump backed him to return to his roots and retain a key Senate seat in the midwestern swing state for the Republicans.

Trump’s support paid dividends and Vance ended up being the embattled Republican leader’s only success among a catastrophic slate of endorsements for state-wide contests in key battlegrounds.

The Hispanic immigration hawk 

Embodying the Republican Party’s push for more diverse appeal in Texas, Monica De La Cruz ran on expanding the Mexican border wall in a state where Hispanics and Latinos of any race now outnumber non-Hispanic white people.

The 48-year-old will be the first Republican and first woman to represent Texas’s 15th congressional district in its history.

De La Cruz was among a quartet of Latina Republicans vying for congressional seats in the state’s traditionally Democratic southeastern stronghold, and the only one that won her race.

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