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From the Hill to ‘The Hill’

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Meet the seven Cornellians serving in Congress

By Joe Wilensky

When Melanie Stansbury, MS ’07, won a special election on June 1 to fill a U.S. congressional seat in New Mexico, it raised the number of Cornellians serving in the House of Representatives to seven—the most in nearly a decade. The 112th Congress (2011–13) had also included seven alums in the House—although with Mark Kirk ’81 representing Illinois in the Senate, the total number of Cornellians in elected office on Capitol Hill then totaled eight.

The alumni currently serving in the 117th Congress are:

portrait of Katherine Clark, JD ’89

Katherine Clark, JD ’89

A fifth-term Democrat, Clark represents Massachusetts’s Fifth District, which includes a diverse mix of cities and towns north and west of Boston, including Cambridge. She sits on the Committee on Appropriations as well as three of its subcommittees. In fall 2020, she was chosen by her colleagues to serve as assistant speaker of the 117th Congress. She has advocated against online abuse, for ending wage discrimination, for protecting women’s healthcare, and for legislation expanding child care options for working parents.

Clark previously served as a state senator, state representative, and general counsel for the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services. In addition to her JD, she earned an undergrad degree from St. Lawrence University and an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is part of a Cornellian family: her husband is Rodney “Scott” Dowell, JD ’89, and her father was H. Chandler Clark ’49, LLB ’56.

portrait of Sharice Davids, JD ’10

Sharice Davids, JD ’10

Davids, a Democrat, is in her second term representing Kansas’s Third District, which includes Kansas City and Overland Park. In 2018, she became both the first openly gay Kansan and one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. (The other was Democrat Debra Haaland of New Mexico, now U.S. secretary of the interior for the Biden Administration. A special election was held earlier this year to fill her seat, which a fellow Cornellian won; see below.)

Davids serves as vice chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and chair of the Committee on Small Business. She also serves on the Joint Economic Committee and the Steering and Policy Committee. She co-chairs both the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the Congressional Native American Caucus. She has focused on legislation to increase access to affordable healthcare, invest in infrastructure that also creates jobs, lower student loan debt, and more. A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Davids was raised by a single mother who was an Army drill sergeant; she has trained in mixed martial arts and was a professional MMA fighter after attending the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Cornell Law School. She worked as a White House fellow during the Obama Administration.

portrait of Dan Meuser ’88

Dan Meuser ’88

A Republican, the Arts & Sciences alum is in his second term representing Pennsylvania’s Ninth District, located in the east central part of the state. Meuser serves on the Small Business and Foreign Affairs committees and is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access. He is also a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, the Republican Study Committee, the Border Security Caucus, the Congressional Coal Caucus, and the U.S.-China Working Group.

His stated priorities include revitalization of his district’s communities through jobs and economic growth; strengthening the district’s coal industry while also helping workers access training programs; and national and border security. Meuser attended New York Maritime University (now SUNY Maritime College) before transferring to Cornell on a Navy ROTC scholarship. He was an executive at Pride Health Care, later known as Pride Mobility Products, a healthcare products manufacturer. In 2011, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett nominated him to serve as the state’s secretary of revenue; he led the department until he ran for Congress in 2018.

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portrait of Walter “Kurt” Schrader ’73

Walter “Kurt” Schrader ’73

Schrader, a Democrat, is in his seventh term representing Oregon’s Fifth District, which comprises the state’s central coast including Salem, some of the southern Portland suburbs, Mount Hood, and more. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and serves on several of its subcommittees; he has previously served on the Agriculture, Small Business, and Budget committees. Schrader is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, the New Democrat Coalition, and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in government from Arts & Sciences, Schrader received a DVM from the University of Illinois. He worked as a farmer and veterinarian for three decades and established a vet clinic in Oregon City. He was first elected to the Oregon State House of Representatives in 1996, to the state senate in 2003, and to Congress in 2008.

portrait of Elissa Slotkin ’98

Elissa Slotkin ’98

The CALS alum is a Democrat in her second term representing Michigan’s Eighth District, which covers part of the south and southeastern part of the state, including nearly all of the state capital of Lansing. She serves on the Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans’ Affairs committees. According to her Congressional website, she prioritizes access to healthcare and lowering the price of prescription drugs, works to ensure access to clean water and protect the Great Lakes, and focuses on increasing government integrity and accountability.

Slotkin grew up on her family farm in Holly, Michigan, a small town near Flint. After earning her undergrad degree in rural sociology from Cornell, she obtained her master’s from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. Slotkin worked as a Middle East analyst for the CIA, including three tours in Iraq as a militia expert, and in several defense and intelligence positions for the White House and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In 2011, she moved to a senior position at the Pentagon and served as acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

portrait of Melanie Stansbury, MS ’07

Melanie Stansbury, MS ’07

A Democrat, Stansbury won a special election in June to fill the seat in New Mexico previously held by Haaland, representing its First District, covering the state’s central areas including most of Albuquerque. After graduating from Saint Mary’s College of California with a BA in human ecology and natural science, Stansbury earned her master’s in community and regional sociology on the Hill and went on to a career in public service—a direction she has said was sparked by a Cornell in Washington course.

Stansbury previously worked on science, natural resources, and tribal issues in the White House Office of Management and Budget, was a staffer in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and served as a New Mexico state representative. She sits on the Space, Science, and Technology Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

portrait of Beth Van Duyne ’95

Beth Van Duyne ’95

The Arts & Sciences alum is a Republican in her first term representing Texas’ 24th District, which includes portions of Tarrant, Denton, and Dallas counties. When she won in November 2020, she became only the second Republican woman from Texas elected to the U.S. House. She serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Small Business Committee as well as the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Prior to her election, Van Duyne served as regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, overseeing Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas; as Mayor of Irving, Texas, from 2011 to 2017; and as an Irving city councilor. She has also served as the Texas chair for the Community Leaders of America, was on the board of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and ran an executive consulting business.

Top image: Photo illustration by Cornell University. All photos: Provided

Published October 5, 2021

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