In January, 90 new members of Congress will arrive in Washington to serve in the 113th Congress. And a handful of them are expected to be major players. The crew includes the first disabled female veteran, a Santa Clause impersonator, a man who campaigned as a 30-year-old virgin and a Wall Street attack dog. While Congress seemed wildly divided in 2012, these strong personalities slated to start in 2013 aren't backing down from the challenge ahead. Here are seven new lawmakers ready to shake up Capitol Hill.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz - Cruz turned heads in August after he defeated powerful establishment candidate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary. Since then, Tea Party groups have looked to Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, to define the future of the GOP's immigration policy. In a post-election speech for the American Principles Project, Cruz outlined his vision of how the Republican Party could recover after losing the White House and the Senate in the 2012 election.
"We didn't win the argument," Cruz said at a dinner for the American Principles Project. "Republicans nationally, the story we conveyed, is that the 47 percent were stuck in a static world. I cannot think of an idea more antithetical than the American principals this country was founded on."
Before he has even landed in Washington, his demanding presence and critical look at his own party has caused pundits to speculate about a 2016 presidential bid.
Expect Cruz to be a major Republican Party spokesman and guide into the party's future, especially on how to appeal to Hispanic voters. "There is no doubt Republicans have got to do a better job with the Hispanic community," Cruz said during a speech after the election. "Immigration matters, especially tone. Nobody is going to vote for you if they think that you do not like them. I think Republicans need to remain a party that supports securing the border and stopping illegal immigration, and at the same time welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants."
Illinois Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth - One of the first female Black Hawk helicopter pilots to fly combat missions, Duckworth survived a 2004 rocket-propelled grenade attack. She lost both legs and part of her right arm, but managed to safely land her helicopter before attending to her injuries. Duckworth competed in one of the most bitter races in 2012, against Tea Party incumbent Republican Joe Walsh. Duckworth proved herself as a hefty fundraiser, outspending her opponent by more than $3 million. Duckworth, who served as the assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, will serve on the House Armed Services Committee and will be the first female double-amputee to serve in the House of Representatives.
Duckworth has said she hopes to make policy that better reflects the needs of veterans who return home after combat. Duckworth supports expanding education opportunities for veterans: While serving as the leader of the Illinois veterans bureau, she successfully implemented a program to give tax breaks to local businesses who hired veterans.
Michigan Republican Rep. Kerry Bentivolio - The libertarian-leaning Bentivolio won election in Michigan's 11th District after long-time GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter resigned from Congress amid a petition fraud scandal. Bentivolio is an outspoken opponent of the Federal Reserve and an Iraq war veteran who questions U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts. But Bentivolio has a checkered resume when compared to others on Capitol Hill. Before he was a congressman, Bentivolio raised reindeer and was a Santa Claus impersonator in a slew of holiday events across Michigan.
During the election, Bentivolio made headlines after USA Today uncovered an old court statement, signed by Bentivolio, reading "I have a problem figuring out which one I really am, Santa Claus or Kerry Bentivolio. All my life I have been told I'm Kerry Bentivolio, and now, I am a Santa Claus, so now I prefer to be Santa Claus."
He also worked as a local teacher, but after reports broke that he was threatening his students, he resigned. Bentivolio maintains he quit because he needed more time to prepare for the campaign trail.
Bentivolio also attracted attention during the 2012 campaign for starring in a controversial post-9/11 film titled The President Goes to Heaven. The movie accuses a dying George W. Bush of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks to gain approval for the Iraq war.
Despite his distrust in the mainstream media, Bentivolio might provide colorful commentary on Congress and could fill the libertarian vacuum left by outgoing Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Maine independent Sen. Angus King - King, Maine's former two-term governor, sailed to victory in a three-way race to replace the state's retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. A loss for Republicans, King has promised to caucus with the Democrats. But King has also warned he won't always side with Harry Reid.
"By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to the other," King said when he made his announcement in November.
King will be a major player in the Senate, serving on four powerful committees, including armed services, intelligence, budget and rules.
King will serve as a litmus test for moderate legislation. Expect him to be an outspoken advocate for policies that bridge the gap between Republican and Democratic positions. King has vowed that his first order of business is to reform Senate practices, including revising the filibuster.
North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp - Heitkamp's unlikely victory in one of the country's most conservative states can be tied to the lawmaker's independent streak. The former state attorney general defeated GOP Rep. Rick Berg by a little over 3,000 votes in a state GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won by 20 points. Heitkamp won by old-fashioned retail politics and has promised to be a moderate member of the Democratic caucus. Heitkamp says one of her main goals is to keep North Dakota's oil boom going. Washington could use a bit of North Dakota success: The state has a balanced budget, an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent, and currently has more than 20,000 job openings. Heitkamp is expected to be a fierce proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would lead to thousands of more jobs in North Dakota.
Heitkamp has vowed to prioritize an independent national energy policy, even if that means she has to go head-to-head with members of her own party. Heitkamp could be an outspoken member of the Democratic party who doesn't always vote down party lines.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott- Scott, who is the Senate's only black member, is expected to be a strong tea party voice who will fill outgoing GOP Senator Jim DeMint's shoes. Scott is both fiscally and socially conservative. During one of his first campaigns, he famously stumped as a 30-year-old virgin. But now Scott, who would prefer to talk about anything other than his race, has said he will prioritize tax reform and will help Republicans restore their message.
Like Cruz, Scott has been critical of his party's inability to show a more compassionate side. "Most of our problems this year," Scott told the Wall Street Journal, "come down to violating his first rule of politics: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Expect Scott to be an outspoken advocate of the far right, with a more sensitive message than we have seen before. While Scott is settling into his new role in the Senate, he will also need the support of tea party groups in order to be re-elected in the 2014 mid-term elections.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren - Warren defeated GOP Sen. Scott Brown in November and is expected to be a force as she begins serving on the Senate's banking committee. Campaign finance reports show Wall Street spent millions against Warren during the competitive Senate campaign. A Harvard professor with no political experience, Warren has long criticized the banking industry for its practices and was one of the brains behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Warren spoke candidly on the campaign trail about how the "game is rigged." Now, voters will watch as Warren has a chance to add the consumer protections she campaigned on.