Freshman Democrats include anti-terrorism expert

Addition of members with military credentials could give Democrats added clout during anticipated floor debates on the war in Iraq.

The freshman class of the 110th Congress will include several Democrats with significant military experience, including one of the highest-ranking military officers ever to run for the House. The small influx of members with military credentials could give Democrats added clout during anticipated floor debates on the war in Iraq.

Democrat Chris Carney, a former Pentagon senior adviser on intelligence and counter terrorism, beat incumbent Rep. Don Sherwood, R-Pa. Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Sestak, a 31-year career officer who handily beat embattled Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and worked during the Clinton administration on the National Security Council. And Tim Walz, a retired Army National Guard member who deployed to Italy in support of operations in Afghanistan, beat six-term incumbent GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota.

Meanwhile, women continued to make gains in Congress, with at least 12 incoming freshmen and several more in undecided races. There were 67 women in the House this Congress, and there will be a net gain of at least four next year.

At least eight Democratic women will join the House freshman class, and only one will not return: Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, who lost in the primary. On the Republican side, four sitting GOP women in the House were defeated for re-election and a fifth -- Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida -- lost her Senate bid.

Women also garnered two new seats in the Senate, with the victories of Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Claire McCaskill, bringing the total to 16. All six female senators up for re-election won. Only two Republican women freshman were elected, for a net loss of at least three.

While the majority of freshmen have state legislative or other public service experience, there are several notable political outsiders. The Democrats include former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler of North Carolina., alternative newsweekly founder and columnist John Yarmuth of Kentucky, and physician Steve Kagen of Wisconsin.

The musical ear of Congress also arguably improved with the addition of Democrats John Hall, co-founder of the 1970s soft rock band Orleans, and Paul Hodes, who cut several albums with his wife as part of their two-member folk band Peggosus and earned a gig at the White House during the Clinton administration.

There were notable family ties as well:

-- Democrat John Sarbanes, son of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., won the open seat vacated by Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.
-- Republican Gus Bilirakis will replace his father, retiring Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla.
-- Florida Democrat Kathy Castor is the daughter of Betty Castor, who narrowly lost a 2004 Senate bid to now-Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.
-- And Robert Casey Jr. is the eldest son of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey Sr. The younger Casey defeated GOP Sen. Rick Santorum.