Change in Congress Comes in All Ages and Sizes

by Nathan L. Gonzales June 25, 2008 · 12:05 AM EDT

While age is an underlying issue in the presidential contest, Democrats have candidates young and old running as change agents at the Congressional level.

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D), 70, is a strong challenger to Rep. Sam Graves (R), 44, in Missouri’s 6th district. Caddo Parish District Attorney Paul Carmouche (D) just turned 65, but is in a strong position to win the Republican open seat in Louisiana’s 4th district.

In New Jersey’s 5th, blind rabbi Dennis Shulman (D), 58, is a longer-shot challenger to Rep. Scott Garrett (R). And in Florida’s 21st district, former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez (D), 59, is giving Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) his first real race in years.

Arizona Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) was a 67-year-old freshman in the 110th Congress, after defeating Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth last cycle.

On the flip side, Democrats also have a number of candidates born right around the time Jimmy Carter was elected president. Iraq War veteran Ashwin Madia (D), 30, stands a good chance of coming to Congress next year as he tries to take over the very competitive Republican open seat in Minnesota’s 3rd district.

In Colorado’s 2nd district, wealthy businessman Jared Polis, 33, will come to Congress if he can make it out of the crowded Democratic primary on Aug. 12. Iraq War veteran Jon Powers (D), 29, also faces a competitive primary in New York’s 26th district. But if he’s the nominee, Powers will also face a general election fight.

Glenn Nye (D), 33, is hoping to knock off Rep. Thelma Drake (R) in Virginia’s 2nd district, while attorney Nick Leibham (D), 34, is hoping to oust Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) in California’s 50th.

André Carson, 33, was elected to Congress earlier this year in a special election to replace his grandmother, the late Rep. Julia Carson (D), in Indiana’s7th district. He defeated 30-year-old state Rep. Jon Elrod (R), who recently announced he was dropping out of the general election race.

Republicans have their own roster of youthful candidates. Duncan D. Hunter (R), 31, is a virtual lock to replace his father in California’s 52nd district.

Illinois state Rep. Aaron Schock (R), 27, could be the youngest Member of the next Congress. He’s favored in the fall, but he still has to win downstate Illinois’s 18th district seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Ray LaHood (R).

In New York’s 1st district, 28-year-old Iraq War veteran Lee Zeldin (R) is a long shot against incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D).