Meet the 2015 Freshmen Class

The Freshmen of the 115th Congress

"I do solemnly swear" — that's the opening line of the oath, which a bevy of newly elected men and women pledged on Jan. 6, 2015, before they started their new jobs as part of the 114th Congress. Meet some of these inspiring pro-life, pro-family members.

Sen. Bill Cassidy
Age: 57

What turned Louisiana Catholics from backing Democrats to Republicans?

Abortion. And that's mainly why Bill Cassidy ousted incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu.

As a congressman, Cassidy consistently supported pro-life measures, including the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, banning abortion at 20 weeks. He also backed state-level pro-life measures, regulating abortion facilities and keeping abortion advocates, including Planned Parenthood, out of schools.

Cassidy contrasted his 100 percent pro-life record with that of Landrieu, who made some pro-life statements but voted the opposite way in the Senate, and who complained about the state's new law. Pro-life groups made sure Louisianans knew the difference.

An evangelical Christian, Cassidy has carried his convictions into his life outside politics. A physician, he cofounded a free health-care clinic in Baton Rouge. He and his wife adopted two children, and when their 17-year-old daughter became pregnant, they supported her in choosing life.

Sen. Tom Cotton
Age: 37

Tom Cotton just became the youngest member of the U.S. Senate.

A Harvard-trained attorney, Cotton also is an Army Ranger who served five years in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star. In 2012, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but after a single term there, he moved on to defeat Sen. David Pryor.

The campaign featured flashpoints over abortion and religious freedom. "Sen. Pryor supports taxpayer-funded abortion and late-term abortion," Cotton said, "and would force Christians to pay for abortions despite their deeply held religious beliefs. That's a real attack on faith."

Cotton praised the Supreme Court's ruling favoring businesses like Hobby Lobby over the Obama administration's mandate to pay for the possible abortifacient drugs they oppose as a matter of conscience.

Faith, Cotton said, is not "something that only happens at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings." Instead, "faith is what we live every single day. And the government shouldn't infringe on the rights of religious liberty."

Sen. Steve Daines
Age: 52

Montana voters who cared about life issues had a clear choice between Steve Daines and Amanda Curtis.

Daines had, in his one term as a congressman, earned a strong pro-life reputation.  Curtis, a state representative from Butte, was eagerly endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America for her "100 percent" support for its agenda.

Daines, however, had been dealing with the issue even before Curtis was nominated. In May, another potential Democratic challenger, state Sen. John Walsh, aired a TV ad accusing him of making women who sought abortion "criminals"—because Daines voted for a 2013 bill stating life begins at fertilization. But the ad fizzled. Major media outlets reported that the charge was bogus: The bill in question specifically said it would not prosecute women who have abortions. By the time the general election was underway, Daines had defeated caricatures of his position, while holding to his long-avowed principles: opposing legal abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother.

Sen. Joni Ernst
Age: 44

Joni Ernst is a pathbreaker in more ways than one. She's the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress. She's the lone female combat veteran in the U.S. Senate, having served in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She's also a lieutenant colonel and battalion commander in the state's Army National Guard.

Ernst has been unflinching in her pro-life position. Pressed on the abortion issue by opponent Bruce Braley during senatorial debates, Ernst repeatedly stated her belief that life begins at conception, and wouldn't back down from holding that the law should protect preborn babies—including those conceived through rape and incest.

As a state senator, Ernst co-sponsored a bill that would have amended Iowa's constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. During this year's campaign, she said she'd support a similar federal amendment if it came up for a vote.

Ernst—a plainspoken woman whose appeal is sometimes compared to Sarah Palin's in 2008—takes over the seat of retired Sen. Tom Harkin, one of the Senate's most liberal members.

Rep. Ken Buck
R-Colorado (Windsor)
Age: 56

Two years ago, Ken Buck was battling lymphoma. Now he's a member of Congress.

Talk about a turnaround in life.

"I would appreciate your support in prayer!" With those words in March 2013, the Weld County, Colo., district attorney announced on Facebook that he had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. Two months later, he reported he was in remission.

Soon afterward, Buck—who'd narrowly lost a U.S. Senate race in 2010—was campaigning for the state's other Senate seat. But in February 2014, he withdrew from the primary in favor of U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner (who went on to win the Senate race in November) and ran for Gardner's House seat instead.

That's not a step down, Buck says. "I'm going to Congress," he told reporters. "It's an unbelievable honor. I don't care if they give me a broom closet in the Library of Congress. I'm just absolutely thrilled to do this."

Buck, who is strongly pro-life and pro-family, has another reason to be honored: The GOP's congressional freshmen voted him president of their class.

Rep. Barbara Comstock
R-Virginia (McLean)
Age: 55

Since 2008, Barbara Comstock has co-chaired the executive committee of the Susan B. Anthony List—a group named for the early feminist leader who decried abortion—which focuses on electing pro-life women.

Now she is one of those women.

Comstock started out as a mom in law school at Georgetown, her husband working two jobs so she could stay home with their young children. When she later went to work outside her home, it was as an aide to one of Congress's greatest champions for life, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia.

She went on to investigate waste of taxpayer dollars as chief counsel to the House Government Reform Committee, then worked at the Justice Department, in the private sector and state government as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. In that last role, she backed a series of pro-life laws and pushed legislation against human trafficking.

As a congresswoman, Comstock is starting yet another new job. Yet she's also coming full circle: She's filling the seat of her old boss, Wolf.

Rep. Frank Guinta
R-New Hampshire (Manchester)
Age: 44

Though he's technically a freshman in the House of Representatives, Frank Guinta isn't a newcomer to that body. He's done a tour of duty once before.

Guinta was elected to the House in 2010, defeated in 2012, and elected in 2014—all three times running against the same opponent, Democrat Carol Shea-Porter.

Voters in their district who care about social issues have had a clear choice all three times: Guinta's positions are pro-life and pro-family across the board, while Shea-Porter is an avid feminist backed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Within weeks of taking office in his first term, Guinta voted to stop sending taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, leading the abortion giant to launch an ad campaign against him.

Though he's made powerful enemies, Guinta hasn't hidden or backed down from his stances, including the repeal of Roe v. Wade. "I believe in the sanctity of life and will work to make sure all children have the ability to grow up surrounded by their parents' loving attention," he stated on his 2014 campaign website.

Rep. Mia Love
R-Utah (Saratoga Springs)
Age: 39

Until last November, a black female Republican had never been elected to Congress. Now there's Mia Love.

A few years ago, Love drew attention in Utah as a city councilwoman and then mayor of Saratoga Springs; she then drew national attention for a speech at the 2012 Republican Convention, where she spoke of the values she learned from her parents, who emigrated—"legally," she invariably says—from Haiti.

Love says her values include limited government, fiscal discipline and a message her father gave her when she entered college: "You will not be a burden to society. You will give back." They also include the sanctity of life and the nature of marriage. She's active on social media, where she readily expresses those values.

Love described the Supreme Court's 2013 rulings on same-sex marriage as "indefensible" and "simply wrong." But she let it be known she wasn't inclined to surrender, adding: "The fight is not over, however, and the battle in support of Utah and American families will continue."

Rep. Tom MacArthur
R-New Jersey (Toms River)
Age: 54

In 1984, Tom MacArthur and his wife, Debbie, got the word that their child would be born with special needs and might not survive. The doctors' advice: Get an abortion.

The MacArthurs' response: Get new doctors.

Their daughter, Gracie, lived 11 years. In her memory, her parents run In God's Hands Charitable Foundation, whose works include donating more than 1,600 wheelchairs to children.

One of the foundation's donations drew the ire of MacArthur's  opponent, Aimee Belgard. Her campaign denounced a gift to a New Jersey pregnancy center as "reprehensible" and a sign of MacArthur's "extreme" anti-choice position.

MacArthur's response noted that he and his wife—"in Gracie's honor, and in our heartfelt belief that all life is precious and sacred"—made the gift to give girls and women choices besides abortion. "I don't understand," he said, "how someone like Aimee Belgard could think this kind of ugly attack would be a good idea."

It wasn't. In a district expected to be competitive, MacArthur won by 10 points.

Rep. Alex Mooney
R-West Virginia (Charles Town)
Age: 43

American values are more than nice-sounding words in Alex Mooney's family. His mother was born and raised in Cuba; she and her family were imprisoned for seven weeks for opposing the Castro regime. She escaped the country at age 21 and came to the U.S. His father later served in Vietnam, winning a Bronze Star.

Mooney says his parents' stories inspired him to fight for the principles of the Founders. In college, that meant serving as president of the Dartmouth Coalition for Life. In later years, it meant serving as a state senator in Maryland, where he effectively blocked same-sex marriage for years, despite a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Now living across the Potomac River in West Virginia, Mooney's address has changed but his priorities haven't. "I've always believed in fighting to protect the sanctity of life," he said during his congressional campaign. "In Congress, I will continue to fight for innocent unborn life by leading the charge to stop taxpayer funding of abortion and reducing the number of abortions in this country."

Rep. Mark Walker
R-North Carolina (Summerfield)
Age: 45

Pastors seldom go to Congress—as members, anyway. The Rev. Mark Walker is an exception.

A Baptist minister, Walker has a history of community service, helping the needy locally and leading volunteers to cities like New York, Baltimore and Cleveland. That inner-city experience, among other factors, helped move Walker toward service in government—to reverse its role in family breakdown, especially the absence of fathers. And he made that one of his campaign's themes.

"Because government programs have replaced the role of fathers, the family is in disarray," he said on his campaign website. "We must act with urgency to restore and rebuild the family by reducing the number of American families dependent on taxpayer funding.

"I'm fully aware that this is not typical political rhetoric," he added. "However, I believe we must extend genuine compassion to these communities, while reducing our condemnation of people who've never known any other life."

A pro-life conservative whose views were often attacked in the campaign, Walker nevertheless won out, aided greatly by churchgoing voters.

Rep. Mimi Walters
R-California (Laguna Niguel)
Age: 52

The new Congress will have more pro-life female members than any has ever had: 22. If Mimi Walters—the first pro-life congresswoman from California—has her way, that number will keep rising. And she's doing more than her part to make it happen.

Walters has made a mission of increasing the number of conservative women in elected office. Working her way up in politics over the past 20 years, the former Laguna Niguel mayor and California state senator has been building networks of successful female candidates nationwide, starting on the local level and working their way up as well.

Walters helped put this approach into practice as cofounder of the California Women's Leadership Association. "We all came together as women in Orange County and said we were going to help each other and the next generation and the generation after that," Walters told the Orange County Register.

In January, her fellow congressional newcomers elected her freshman representative to GOP House leadership—giving her an immediate voice on Speaker John Boehner's leadership team. 

© 2015 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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