U.S. Rep. Austin Scott (R-Macon) has been making the national media rounds the past two weeks, sharing his views on the upcoming year after being voted president of the largest Republican Congressional freshman class in U.S. history.
Scott defeated Democratic incumbent Jim Marshall in the Nov. 2 election and his victory has been hailed as an example of voters’ desire to see a return to fiscal conservation. He represents the Eighth Congressional District, which contains most of Newton County and portions of 20 other counties in central and southern Georgia.
Scott was joined by 86 fellow freshman Republicans that helped tipped the balance of power in the U.S. House toward the GOP.
“Well, certainly, we've got members from all over the country, and we have different ideas, although we have a tremendous amount of respect for how we got here. And we understand that it wasn't, in many cases, that we won as much as it is that they lost because the Democrats lost the respect and the trust of the general public,” Scott said during a Jan. 4 appearance on Fox News. “So one of the things we, as the freshmen, class have to do is to come in and to be totally honest with people and earn that trust back.”
The Washington Post named Scott one of 10 freshman representatives to watch.
“Scott was one of a large handful of Southern Republicans who ousted Blue Dog Democrats in the November elections. His victory over four-term Rep. Jim Marshall (D) heralded a major shift in Southern politics and helped tip the House to Republicans,” the Post wrote on Jan. 5. “Scott's colleagues seem to understand that his legislative savvy will come in handy on Capitol Hill: They picked him as their class president.”
Chris Grant, a political science professor at Mercer University located in Scott’s district, said Scott’s nomination as class president didn’t give him any additional power, but shed light on the path his career could take.
“Given the size of the freshman class, more than usual with a third of the Republican caucus, that probably gives him some serious consideration and gives him more play with leadership than a freshman normally would have,” Grant said in a phone interview.
Grant said that the size of the class combined with House Speaker John Boehner’s shepherding style will give freshman representatives more influence than usual.
As for being a party spokesperson, Grant said Scott is young and good looking and has a more reasonable tone than other freshman. “He sounds sincere,” Grant said.
Regarding whether Scott’s election signals a major shift in southern politics, Grant said Scott’s district has historically leaned Republican.
“The district just went back to its norm. The shift in Southern politics came four years ago and 20 years ago,” Grant said. “The Republicans did show they’re not even tolerating Blue Dog Democrats now.”
Grant did say that Marshall’s loss does eliminate the last of the white Democrats in the South.
“You can go from Charlotte to Houston now, leaving out Florida, and you will not see a white Democrat elected to Congress anymore,” he said.
Because of his popularity, Scott will have a chance to move quickly up the party’s ranks, which could lead to more perks for residents of his district. As far as the issues, Scott has already voted to repeal the health bill, but Grant said the truly interesting votes will be on financial issues, like whether to raise the