1. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
Newly elected Ted Cruz is a tea party favorite and handily defeated the establishment-favored Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst 57 percent to 43 percent in the GOP run-off primary. Cruz, whose father fled Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power, was Texas solicitor general from 2003 to 2008, winning cases involving a Ten Commandants monument on public grounds and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and defending the death penalty from interference from the International Court of Justice
2. Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer
State legislator Deb Fischer was the only Republican on Election Day to win a Senate race for a seat that had been held by Democrats, defeating Bob Kerrey, a former senator and governor of Nebraska, by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. Her upset primary victory against well-funded state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg—who both outspent her by a 10-1 margin—was aided by a last minute endorsement by Sarah Palin.
3. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake
While not exactly a new face to Washington after serving six terms in the House, Jeff Flake will be performing on a larger stage after defeating Democrat Richard Carmona for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Sen. Jon Kyl. Flake made a name for himself in the House as a fiscal conservative who battled pork-barrel spending and crusaded against earmarks.
4. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
Mike Pence is another old face moving to a new position where he can wield greater influence. Pence was a GOP rising star as a congressmen, representing eastern Indiana for a decade, and becoming chairman of the House Republican Conference. His election as governor of Indiana in November will give him valuable experience as the head of an executive branch of government, setting him up nicely as a strong contender in the 2016 presidential race.
5. Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah
Even though she lost her bid to wrest a congressional seat away from six-term Democratic incumbent Jim Matheson, Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, proved that she is a force to be reckoned with in her initial appearance on the national stage. Love impressed many with her speech at the Republican National Convention. The daughter of Haitian immigrants and a black Mormon, Love will help the GOP in its attempt to broaden its tent to include women and minorities.
6. Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon
Matt Salmon has experience unique to most freshmen members of Congress, as he returns to the House after an absence of more than a decade. Salmon was first elected in 1994, as part of the Republican take-over of the House for the first time in nearly half a century, and served six years before he term-limited himself, choosing not to run for re-election in 2000.
7. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory
Former Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Pat McCrory became the first Republican governor of the Tar Heel State since 1993, defeating Democrat Walter Dalton with 55 percent of the vote. Even though conservatives were wary of McCrory’s record as mayor, where he shepherded a tax hike to help pay for a light rail system, he ran as a tax-cutting advocate in his gubernatorial race, proposing reductions in personal and corporate rates.
8. North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer
One of the nation’s few economic success stories of the past few years can be seen in North Dakota, where fracking technology has spurred an energy boom, creating jobs and bringing the state’s unemployment rate to just 3 percent, the lowest in the United States. Kevin Cramer, who won the state’s single House seat, brings expertise to the House on energy issues, having served on the North Dakota Public Service Commission since 2003, and can be counted on to champion smaller government and free markets.
9. Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis, after graduating from Harvard Law School, earned a commission as a JAG officer in the U.S. Navy, serving at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq as an advisor to Navy SEALs before becoming a federal prosecutor. He brings to Congress a much-needed respect for the Constitution, having authored a book about the erosion of the founding document during the Obama era, and writing for numerous publications, including Human Events.
10. Ann Romney
She won’t be on any ballots, but Ann Romney was a welcome addition to the boisterous 2012 election. Introduced to most of America for the first time as her husband secured the nomination, the almost-first lady added a touch of dignity to the banality of the presidential race even as she withstood vicious attacks against herself and her husband.