Cornellians to Congress

Chris Carney ’81 graduated a year before David Loebsack joined Cornell’s politics faculty. Today they share a common bond: freshman members of the U.S. House of Representatives, previously politics professors who had never run for public office, but riding the wave of Democrats elected to Congress.

Carney, who taught political science at Penn State University’s Worthington-Scranton campus and was a U.S. Defense Department counterterrorism consultant, defeated a four-term incumbent to win Pennsylvania’s 10th District.

“The mood of the country is pretty sour, and people wanted a change. Our congressman, along with many others, was simply a rubber stamp for the administration. That’s not good government,” Carney told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

He majored in history and environmental science at Cornell, and then earned an M.A. in international relations at the University of Wyoming and a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Nebraska.

Loebsack edged 15-term incumbent Jim Leach by fewer than 6,000 votes to claim Iowa’s 2nd District seat. Despite the close result, the campaign was void of negative advertising and the mudslinging that typically dogs tight races. The campaign was an anomaly noted by political observers nationwide and dubbed by the Los Angeles Times as the “most unlikely campaign in the 2006 midterm election cycle.”

Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the Iowa congressional delegation, 4-3, for the first time since 1978.

“I grew up in poverty with a single mom who had mental illness. If anyone had told me I’d grow up to teach at Cornell College with a Ph.D., I would have thought they were crazy. If anyone had told me that I would get elected to Congress, I would have thought they were from another planet,” Loebsack told the Washington Post. “I’m living proof of the American dream.”

Loebsack intends to focus on issues including a single-payer, national health insurance program, a minimum wage increase, and lower interest rates on student loans to make education more affordable. He has been appointed to the House Armed Services Committee, which examines U.S. military policy, and the Education and Workforce Committee. He has retired as an active faculty member in the politics department, but Cornell has invited him to return to the classroom as time allows during and after his congressional appointment.

Carney, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, hopes to focus on issues including national security and alternative energy sources. He has been appointed to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security.