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Politics

Surprise Winners Ready To Put 2010 Behind Them

Newly-elected North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers says it's "time to sit back and enjoy."(Office of Rep. Ellmers)

January 6, 2011

While Ellmers said the ad "did draw a little attention to the race," her campaign had polled in the district and found it was an issue most voters in the district were concerned with and were against.

"Congressman Etheridge was not speaking out one way or another. And yet when I was out in the district talking to potential voters, citizens were very concerned about it," said Ellmers. "So I felt like it was our duty to really speak out."

New York Republican Ann Marie Buerkle was another election night shocker. She only beat freshman Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei by 659 votes after three weeks of recounts and court challenges.

"It makes me realize how hard I have to work and how hard I have to work to unify the district, and for those who didn't support me, to make sure they have a good representative here in Washington," Buerkle said of her narrow win, which she credits to a strong grassroots organization.

But Buerkle sidestepped the notion she's a sure Democratic target in two years, saying only, "right now the only thing that's on my mind is to get together our offices so we can provide excellent constituent service for our district."

In Tennessee, Republican Scott DesJarlais defeated Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis, who had been seen as the safer of several Democratic seats in the Volunteer State that Republicans targeted. The physician and political novice ended up winning by shocking 18 percentage points.

"I think people were really just disappointed in a lack of accountability and leadership and so they were looking for an alternative, a more citizen-type legislature, and I think I offered that," DesJarlais said of his once seemingly unlikely win.

But even with a comfortable margin, DesJarlais said he wouldn't be surprised to end up on a target list again.

"This is the first time I've ever held public office, so as far as I know, [my district] going to be targeted," said DesJarlais. "A lot will be dependent on how we perform as a Congress. If we do a good job then, maybe we'll just have to see."

Florida Republican Allen West was walking the halls of Congress Tuesday after succeeding on his second try at knocking off Democratic Rep. Ron Klein. One of two African-American Republicans elected to Congress this cycle, West was known as an outspoken conservative and Tea Party favorite during his campaign.

But as for any potential conflicts that could arise within the GOP caucus between more moderate members and new Tea Party-aligned representatives, West demurred, saying he ran on the "Republican ticket" and that he did "believe in the grassroots values that the tea party exposes."

And if he's a potential target in 2012, West says he's not worried about it.

"I'm up here to do the right thing by the people of my district that sent me here, and I know that I will get re-elected if I stand on those principles and I do what they ask me to do," said West. "I'm focused on turning the economic situation around and the national security around."

West's district has the potential to become more Republican-friendly in Florida's redistricting, where the Sunshine State is also gaining two congressional seats.

"I'm sure with a Republican state legislature and a Republican governor, they're not looking to lose anything," he added.

But West laughed, "You can talk to the legislature about that. Hopefully they think I'm a good enough guy that they want to keep this district."

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