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KRISTY MAY / THE COURIER / AP

FRESHMAN: GOP Senator-elect David Vitter

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A lawyer and longtime Republican operative, Martinez was named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Bush, and he quickly became the Administration's preferred candidate to run for the Florida seat. With the White House and the national Republican organization—not to mention Florida Governor Jeb Bush—in his corner, Martinez might have run a vigorous but dignified race. Instead, his campaign slung mud early, labeling his primary opponent a tool of the "radical homosexual lobby" (the St. Petersburg Times withdrew its endorsement of Martinez in disgust) and calling the federal agents who seized Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez four years ago "armed thugs." Martinez lamely blamed "Young Turks" on his staff for the nastiness.

Still, in an evenly divided Senate that can turn on a single member's vote, the G.O.P. will be grateful for the help. Martinez brings an Administration-friendly vote on such issues as caps on medical-malpractice damages, Social Security privatization and extension of the Bush tax cuts. What he may not bring is much collegiality to a Senate sorely lacking it.

LOUISIANA
Republican - David Vitter
A Muckraker On the Right

In a state that prides itself on producing moderate politicians who work easily and congenially with both parties, David Vitter, 43, Louisiana's newly elected Republican Senator, stands out. A staunch conservative who broke into politics in 1991 when he won the state house seat vacated by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Vitter quickly made a reputation as a loner and political bomb thrower. He peppered Governor Edwin Edwards with ethics complaints, led the successful fight for term limits in the state legislature and exposed a cozy perk by which lawmakers secured Tulane scholarships for favorite constituents. When Vitter won a special election in 1999 to succeed Congressman Bob Livingston, who resigned the House after an adultery scandal, few of his colleagues reportedly showed up at the victory bash.

Vitter's ascendancy is owed in no small part to Louisiana's idiosyncratic election system, in which multiple candidates, including pols from the same party, run together in a scrum. If no one crosses the 50% threshold, the top two vote getters—regardless of affiliation—move into a runoff. Facing four Democrats in a crowded field, Vitter won outright, becoming the first Republican U.S. Senator from Louisiana since Reconstruction. A flap created late in the race when Vitter enclosed dollar bills in a mass mailing to potential voters did not seem to hurt him.

In Congress, Vitter racked up a nearly perfect conservative record, voting with the G.O.P. 99% of the time. He lost his 100% rating from the American Conservative Union when he supported the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, which the group opposed but President Bush backed. He also crusaded against RU 486, the so-called abortion pill, and supported replacing the federal income tax with a flat tax or national sales tax. And even if Vitter was not the favorite politician of Pelican State Republicans, they saw a chance to win Democrat John Breaux's old Senate seat and rallied to his support.

OKLAHOMA
Republican - Tom Coburn
A Doctor Who Plays Hardball

If Tom Coburn has anyone to thank for his election to the Senate, it may not be Tom Coburn. A hard-right conservative in hard-right Oklahoma ought not to have too much trouble against a Democratic opponent. But Coburn, an obstetrician and former Congressman, got into trouble with a slightly batty warning about "rampant" lesbianism in rural Oklahoma, as well as a 14-year-old, unproven claim that he once sterilized a patient without her consent. Still, he survived, and it was policies and politics more than personality that saved him.

Coburn is passionately opposed to abortion, has called excess government spending evil and blames the sickly state of Social Security and Medicare on career politicians—a Washington class he attacks with special credibility since his career in the House ended when he voluntarily stepped down to honor a campaign pledge that he would serve no more than three terms. Yet he maintains close ties to the Bush clan. Former President George H.W. Bush showed up to campaign for him. So did James Dobson, head of the conservative activist group Focus on the Family.

Coburn's opponent, Democratic Congressman Brad Carson, couldn't pull the same kind of weight, and in fact didn't dare try: most Democrats with a national reputation are radioactive in Oklahoma. Despite Carson's declared support for gun rights, tax cuts, the Iraq war and a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Coburn managed to paint him as a liberal. Once he gets to Washington, Coburn may apply the same label to some of his fellow Republicans: budget deficits drive him crazy, a lonely cause in a Congress that these days winks at trillions in red ink. Given that Coburn entered—and won—the Senate primary after state G.O.P. leaders had already endorsed someone else, don't expect him to be the best-behaved Senator on the Republican side of the aisle.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Republican - Jim Demint
An Adman Who Can Dance

Jim DeMint can be counted on to sing from the Republican song sheet when he takes his seat in the Senate—except, of course, for those times when he doesn't. The new Senator from South Carolina may never please anyone completely, which may be the best way to please everyone at least a little.

DeMint learned a thing or two about making a public impression as a child after his mother started the DeMint Academy of Dance and Decorum in the family home. If too few girls showed up for dance lessons, he was pressed into service, standing in for one. He later married his junior high school sweetheart and went to work in her father's advertising firm—as good a training ground for modern American politics as any.

A Congressman since 1998, DeMint was touted as the White House's first choice to seek the seat being vacated by Democratic veteran Fritz Hollings. But the fit wasn't an entirely natural one for an Administration that prizes loyalty above all things. In the House, DeMint voted to give the President the authority to conduct fast-track trade negotiations with foreign countries, but only after extracting a list of concessions to protect South Carolina's textile industry. He also voted against one of Bush's legislative crown jewels, the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, worried that it was too costly. And for a former adman, he had a couple of badly tone-deaf moments on the campaign trail, suggesting that gays and unmarried mothers should be forbidden to be teachers. He later apologized. Still, much of DeMint's campaign platform—in favor of tax cuts, tort reform and partial privatization of Social Security—is by-the-book Republicanism. To pick up a Senate seat, the G.O.P. will tolerate a little restlessness in the ranks.

NORTH CAROLINA
Republican - Richard Burr
The Political Power Salesman

Not so long ago, Republican Richard Burr made his living demonstrating kerosene burners. Now, after five terms in the House of Representatives, he's on his way to the Senate, having learned a thing or two about taking heat in both his previous jobs. Burr was born in Virginia, but his family moved to North Carolina when he was a boy. He attended Wake Forest University, then went to work for a wholesaler of outdoor power equipment. In 1992 he made an abrupt career switch. Alarmed, as he tells it, at high taxes, he ran for Congress—and lost. In 1994 he tried again, this time riding the Gingrich tsunami to Capitol Hill.

A dogged congressional foot soldier, Burr worked hard on the Bush Administration's Medicare reform bill, supports medical-malpractice reform and a constitutional ban on gay marriage and has backed positions friendly to drug companies. Such loyalty earned him frequent campaign visits by President Bush and other members of the Administration. Even so, he had to overcome the higher public profile of his Democratic opponent, Erskine Bowles, as well as his own earlier support for free-trade agreements, which never went down well in a state with two big industries—tobacco and textiles—vulnerable to overseas competition. Burr's win flips John Edwards' Senate seat back to the Republican side of the aisle, an especially sweet win for the G.O.P.—adding a reliable vote to the fractious chamber.

Reported by Paul Cuadros/Raleigh, Rita Healy/Denver, Ruth Laney/Baton Rouge, Marguerite Michaels/Rapid City, Tim Padgett/Miami, Constance E. Richards/Asheville and Rod Walton/Tulsa

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