Familiar faces of the next Congress: These former staffers will be back as members
From impeachment lawyers to field reps, these new lawmakers know the drill
The 118th Congress will welcome around 80 new members, and not all of them are strangers to the job. More than a dozen members of the incoming class have previously worked as congressional staff, whether that means calling the shots or answering the phones.
One became the face of efforts to impeach Donald Trump, while another remembers Whitewater. But it wasn’t always glamorous.
“I spent a lot of time just helping … citizens with their problems,” said Nick Langworthy, who worked as a district aide before getting elected himself.
He still thinks about a freak snowstorm that hit the Buffalo area in October 2006, knocking out power for a week. “Whether it’s a crisis, a water project, a natural disaster … they come to the congressman’s office,” the New York Republican said.
Here are some of the former staffers who will join the House and Senate in January.
Katie Britt, R-Ala.
Her primary opponent dismissed her as a “relatively inexperienced employee,” while former President Trump called her an “assistant.”
But Britt was much more than that — she was actually a chief of staff. Now she will replace her onetime boss, Richard C. Shelby, as a senator from Alabama.
She started out in Shelby’s press shop before earning her law degree and eventually returned to the Hill to serve as his chief from 2016 to 2018.
The first woman from Alabama elected to the Senate, she will be among the youngest members of the chamber at age 40.
Josh Brecheen, R-Okla.
When “Dr. No” is your mentor, you walk “the unpopular and lonely pathway of fiscal restraint,” as Brecheen once put it.
He was a field representative from 2005 to 2010 for Tom Coburn, the maverick senator known for embracing obstruction and targeting government waste.
“Anybody that had the opportunity to work for Dr. Coburn adored that man,” Brecheen said in a campaign ad this year.
And he picked up a few tips along the way. “If you miss Tom Coburn, you’ll like Josh Brecheen,” the ad concluded.
After surviving a runoff in Oklahoma’s Republican primary, Brecheen will take the House seat left open by Sen.-elect Markwayne Mullin.
Dan Goldman, D-N.Y.
He prosecuted Genovese mobsters as an assistant U.S. attorney and later showed up on cable news as a talking head. But his highest-profile job was on the Hill.
As an impeachment attorney for Democrats in 2019, Goldman led the very public case against Trump.
“I was in the trenches protecting and defending our democracy,” Goldman said during a debate in August, as he faced a crowded primary field in New York’s newly drawn 10th District.
After defeating progressive primary opponents like Rep. Mondaire Jones, he will return to his former workplace — and to the town where he grew up. An heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune, Goldman attended the prestigious Sidwell Friends School alongside the children of political elites.
Glenn F. Ivey, D-Md.
Growing up in the 1970s, Ivey hung on every word of the Watergate hearings as they aired on TV.
A couple of decades later, he was part of the action. As legal counsel for Democrats on the Senate Whitewater Committee, he worked on the probe of President Bill Clinton and his failed real estate dealings.
That could come in handy next year. “There’s a good chance House Republicans are going to have multiple investigative hearings that target the Biden administration,” he told Maryland Matters. “It’ll be good for the Democratic caucus [to have] experience with that, and I certainly do.”
After graduating from Harvard Law, he took his first job on the Hill with Rep. John Conyers Jr. and later worked for Tom Daschle, then the Senate minority leader.
Having crushed the comeback dreams of former Rep. Donna Edwards in the Democratic primary, he will represent Maryland’s 4th District, including parts of Prince George’s County.
Aaron Bean, R-Fla.
Bean has had Congress in his sights for most of his life.
After he graduated college in 1989, Bean worked as a fellow in the office of then-Sen. Connie Mack III. He stayed with the Florida Republican through the next year but had to supplement his pay with a second job: selling perfume at nearby malls on the weekends.
Feeling homesick, he went back to his hometown of Fernandina Beach, where he was elected to the city commission and later to the Florida House and Senate.
“I had an offer … to stay [with] Connie Mack, but I decided it was just better to go home and work my way back up and try to become the member myself,” he said. “It’s taken me 30 years.”
Thomas H. Kean Jr., R-N.J.
He got his start at the EPA during the George H.W. Bush administration and then became a staffer for Republican Rep. Bob Franks, advising him on energy and foreign affairs issues.
But for Kean, politics goes back generations. His father, Thomas Howard Kean Sr., was the governor of New Jersey. His grandfather Robert Winthrop Kean sat in the House. And his great-grandfather Hamilton Fish Kean and great-great-uncle John Kean both served in the Senate.
He becomes the latest Kean to land in Congress, after spending two decades in the New Jersey legislature.
Nick Langworthy, R-N.Y.
Langworthy weathered some storms during his first jobs in politics.
The New York Republican began working for former Rep. Tom Reynolds as a field representative in 2003 and went on to manage his reelection campaign in 2006. His boss eked out a win that cycle, after drawing criticism for how he handled information about Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate behavior with House pages.
Langworthy also ran the campaign of former Rep. Christopher Lee, who resigned after his own scandal broke: The married lawmaker had tried to set up a date with a woman through his Craigslist account and sent her a shirtless photo of himself.
“Every one of our members of Congress from the western end of the state has left with some sort of scandal surrounding them,” Langworthy said. “And I eventually got to a position where I said that I think I can do this better myself.”
Andrea Salinas, D-Ore.
Salinas worked for several congressional heavy hitters before getting elected herself, but she originally planned to be a lawyer.
The Democrat interned for Sen. Dianne Feinstein while earning her bachelor’s degree, worked for Sen. Harry Reid in 1996 as a legislative correspondent, and then moved to Rep. Pete Stark’s office a year later as a legislative assistant.
“That really solidified it for me,” she said. “I was like, ‘I definitely don’t want my law degree.’”
Salinas stayed with Stark until 2004. After moving back to Oregon a couple of years later, she was hired as a district aide by Rep. Darlene Hooley and went on to serve as a state legislator.
With her win in the newly created 6th District, Salinas will become one of Oregon’s first two Hispanic members of Congress.
Nick Eskow and Paul V. Fontelo contributed to this report.