A decade ago, 65 Democrats and 45 Republicans entered the House of Representatives promising to shake up politics as usual. Two years later, 73 GOP freshmen rode an anti-incumbent wave and helped their party take control of the House for the first time since 1954.
But the 52 men and women who will join the House next week represent a different trend. It is a class born out of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, reflecting voters' desire for stability and experience in a time of uncertainty.
"This is not another revolutionary class, like the class of '94 or '74," said Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "This is a return to a form that we've had before. These are not novices."
The freshman class, consisting of 33 Republicans and 19 Democrats, is more notable for its experience than anything else. Three-quarters of them held public office before winning their elections Nov. 5. The roster includes a former member of Congress, a governor, two secretaries of state, and at least one state House speaker, state Senate president and a mayor.
"This was a cycle where voters were looking for experience, because of 9/11 and what's happened since then," said Howard Wolfson, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
More so than in recent campaigns, candidates from both parties touted their government backgrounds and, even better when applicable, a military record. Rep.-elect John Kline (R-Minn.), a Marine Corps veteran who ousted Rep. Bill Luther (D-Minn.), told voters how he carried the "football" -- a device with the codes for launching a nuclear strike -- for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. National security "seemed more germane to voters," said Kline, who had run against Luther twice before.
Even the class's youngest member, Devin Nunes, 29, emphasized his political experience in a recent interview. "I've been in elected office now for six years," said Nunes, a California Republican who sits on the College of the Sequoias board of trustees and is a state director for the Agriculture Department.
The new lawmakers generally embrace government rather than reject it, even on the Republican side.
"It's kind of hard to run against government, especially when the president is a Republican," said John J. Pitney Jr., a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.
In a similar vein, there's little praise for term limits, once a mainstay of many GOP campaigns. Nunes, a protege of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), said it made sense to remain in Congress for several terms rather that leave quickly.
"The upward mobility for someone in Washington is much higher the longer you stay," he said.
Several new Republican members said they felt indebted to Bush, a sentiment the president can tap into when tough congressional votes arise. "Everybody benefited from President Bush's popularity and support from the administration," said Tom Cole, who will succeed retiring Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).
On the Democratic side, voters also rewarded several candidates with experience and a moderate, get-down-to-business style. Two southern members known for their extreme positions on Middle East issues -- Reps. Earl F. Hilliard (Ala.) and Cynthia McKinney (Ga.) -- lost their primary races to more moderate, staid candidates who focused mainly on domestic issues: Artur Davis and Denise Majette, respectively. All four are African Americans.
Incoming Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said the caucus has welcomed Davis and Majette into "the fold. Our members have moved on from the election."
The redistricting process that takes place every 10 years created a few more opportunities for minorities, although the change was not dramatic. For example, the nation's Latino population grew by 13 million between 1990 and 2000, according to the U.S. census, but there were just three new Latinos elected to the House. A decade ago, 34 women and minorities came in on the Democratic side, compared with nine this year.
"Redistricting was very much about incumbency protection," said Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), one of the three new Hispanics elected this fall.
The freshman class also includes two Portuguese Americans, Nunes and Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.). Those two, along with Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), have ancestors who hail from the Azores, islands off Portugal. Cardoza said he plans to join the Hispanic Caucus, even though "I caught a lot of heck in the campaign for that." No Republicans belong to the Hispanic Caucus.
Redistricting also aided a few legislators who helped draw the new congressional district lines. Both Tom Feeney and Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republicans, managed to win House seats by running in districts they helped shape.
Diaz-Balart also represents another trend: the strength of family ties. His brother Lincoln has completed five House terms, while Sanchez's sister is starting her fourth term next week. Kendrick B. Meek, a Florida state senator, won his mother's old job in November.
A few freshmen lawmakers have especially deep political connections, legislative experience or fundraising prowess. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris's interpretation of election law helped Bush emerge victorious after the state's recount in 2000. She raised $3 million and cruised to election this fall in a safe Republican House seat.
Rahm Emanuel, a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, is bidding for a seat on the coveted Ways and Means Committee and has a plan to expand health care coverage to poor families. In a recent interview Emanuel, 43, juggled three phones at once while he spoke of his future on Capitol Hill.
"As long as the people in the Fifth District on the North Side of Chicago support me, I'm going to continue to run for this office," Emanuel said. "I don't believe in term limits. I think it's disrespectful to the public. If they want to throw you out, that's what elections are for."
Still, all the new House members interviewed in recent weeks said they recognized the challenge of making the transition to federal office. Cole, who served as secretary of state as well as a state senator and chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said: "My background has largely been campaign politics. That's not the same thing as being a legislator."