The Year In Surprise Stars
We now turn to the surprising stars of 2010. These are contenders who were pretty far off the radar screen at the beginning of the cycle but who stepped forward to run strong campaigns. Such candidates spanned the country this year and often took advantage of the electorate's desire for new, atypical politicians.
Any discussion of unexpected stars in 2010 has to start with Wisconsin Sen.-elect Ron Johnson (R). Johnson decided to challenge Sen. Russ Feingold (D) after a bevy of Republicans passed on the race, including former Gov. Tommy Thompson -- who was considered the GOP's best shot at the seat early in the cycle. Johnson wasn't a highly touted National Republican Senatorial Committee recruit, but he turned out to be one of its best candidates. He combined his business background with strong, unique TV ads and went on to beat Feingold pretty easily.
Another surprise star is South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley (R). Sure, South Carolina is a Republican state, so Haley winning the general election once she got the nomination was no shocker. But getting the nomination was no cake walk. Haley overcame several obstacles, including unproven allegations of affairs, and emerged as one of the most rapidly rising stars in the GOP. The former state representative has added ethnic and gender diversity to the Republican Party and was recently named recruitment chair of the Republican Governors Association.
Another Republican who added diversity to the GOP ranks is New Mexico Gov.-elect Susana Martinez (R). Martinez was a somewhat unknown District Attorney when she launched her gubernatorial bid. Martinez was able to successfully tie Lt. Gov. and Democratic nominee Diane Denish to Gov. Bill Richardson's (D) problems and went on to win easily. Like Haley, Martinez has also been named to the RGA's leadership team.