This post has been updated.
This election cycle, five out of nine Cornell alumni running for Congress were elected or re-elected. Additionally, a Cornell alumnus lost his race for governor. The candidates ranged in age, place, party affiliation and major — from 1973 to 2010, Michigan to Oregon, Democrat and Republican and government to regional planning.
Sharice Davids J.D. ’10 (D-K.S.), 3rd Congressional District in Kansas
Sharice Davids J.D. ’10 was elected to represent Kansas’ third congressional district last night, becoming the first Native American woman elected to Congress and the first openly-gay woman to represent Kansas in Congress. She will be one of two Native American women serving in Congress next year, the other is Debra Haaland (D-N.M.).
In an interview with The Sun last week, Davids credited her time at the Cornell Law School for changing the “trajectory of [her] career,” saying that the experience “opened up [her] eyes.” She also said the connections she made at school were critical to her success.
“One of the first people to help me get ready and start this whole thing called ‘getting ready for Congress,’ I met at Cornell Law school,” Davids said. “There have been a whole number of people from Cornell who have helped get this campaign off the ground.”
Davids was running against Kevin Yoder (R-K.S.), who has occupied the seat since 2010. Davids will be the first Democrat to represent the area since Dennis Moore, who served from 1999-2011.
Rick Green ’92 (R-Mass.), 3rd Congressional District in Massachusetts
Rick Green ’92 lost by double-digit points to Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) in his effort to represent Massachusetts’ third congressional district. Lori Trahan will fill Rep. Niki Tsongas’ seat who announced her retirement in August. Tsongas had represented the district since 2013.
Green, who was a wide receiver on Cornell’s football team in 1991, would have been the first Republican to represent the district since 1994. He campaigned on fighting the opioid epidemic and investing in infrastructure.
“It’s all about the third district. I’m not going to go down there and be on the Ways and Means or Armed Services,” Green told Boston.com. “I mean, those are the committee assignments you want if you’re trying to pad your resume.”
Katherine Clark J.D. ’89 (D-Mass.), 5th Congressional District in Massachusetts
Rep. Katherine Clark J.D. ’89 (D-Mass.) won her re-election bid last night and will continue to represent Massachusetts’ fifth district. She has held the seat since 2013.
In an interview with The Sun last week, Clark pointed to her time at Cornell Law School and the Legal Aid clinic as “peaking [her] interest in public service” and “pursuing a career as a public interest lawyer.”
Clark also took time to provide some advice for college students, urging them to participate in politics.
“Becoming involved with political campaigns is a great way to get to know your community,” Clark said. “It’s a great way to give back, and it’s a great way to influence the future of policies that very much affect college students.”
Clark currently sits on the House Appropriations Committee and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Asian American Pacific Caucus.
Elissa Slotkin ’98 (D-M.I.), 8th Congressional District in Michigan
Elissa Slotkin ’98 ran her campaign in Michigan’s eighth district on a moderate platform, supporting gun rights and opposing single payer health care as well as advocating for campaign finance reform and the decriminalization for marijuana.
Her platform succeeded, as she won in a close race to Mike Bishop (R-Mich.). Bishop had represented the district since 2015.
Since graduating from Cornell, Slotkin has built her career in the intelligence community, serving three tours in Iraq as a CIA analyst, as well as on the National Security Council as director for Iraq under President George W. Bush. Under the Obama presidency, Slotkin was the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Rich Pezzullo ’80 (R-N.J.), 6th Congressional District in New Jersey
Rich Pezzullo ’80 (R-N.J.) ran and lost his election yesterday in a unsuccessful race against incumbent Frank Pallone Jr., who will continue to serve New Jersey’s sixth district for the next two years.
While a student at Cornell, Pezzullo was a business major and an ROTC Army cadet who then went on to serve in the Army reserves for 20 years.
According to Pezzullo’s campaign website, he identifies himself as a “conservative Republican who believes President Trump needs as much support as we can send him in Congress.”
The issues that he regards as top priority include reforming the federal healthcare by repealing Obamacare, cutting funding to welfare programs and a pro-life approach to women’s healthcare.
Dan Meuser ’88 (R-Penn.), 9th Congressional District in Pennsylvania
Dan Meuser ’88 (R-Penn.) is a graduate of the Navy ROTC program at Cornell who studied economics in the College of Arts and Sciences. Last night, he won his race in the ninth district for Pennsylvania house representative against Democrat Denny Wolff.
In 2011, Meuser was nominated by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett to be Secretary of the Department of Revenue. His goal was “putting more money in the pockets of taxpayers.”
In his bid for congress, Meuser stressed his passion for upholding the ideals of the American Dream and increasing financial support for national security, specifically, legislation against illegal entry by immigrants.
Jamie McLeod-Skinner MRP ’95 (D-O.R.), 2nd Congressional District in Oregon
Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D-O.R.) received her Masters in Regional Planning from Cornell in 1995 after completing her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. McLeod-Skinner then went on to obtain her J.D. in natural resource law from the University of Oregon School of Law.
McLeod-Skinner lost her campaign for Oregon representative in a landslide on Tuesday night to Republican incumbent Greg Walden.
This isn’t McLeod-Skinner’s first time running for public office. She previously served on the Santa Clara City Council for eight years and was compelled to continue working as a public servant.
McLeod said that her Cornell education prepared her to have a “meaningful impact,” and that the school experience “develops a sense of responsibility to engage in the world.
“My campaign structure’s focus on community and people is influenced by my Cornell experience,” she said.
Kurt Schrader ’73 (D-O.R.), 5th Congressional District in Oregon
Kurt Schrader (D-O.R.) graduated with the class of 1973 with a bachelors in government and went on to the University of Illinois to obtain his veterinary degree. Shrader won a hard-fought re-election campaign against republican challenger Mark Callahan and independent Mark Roberts. He will be serving his sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Schrader’s top priorities, as listed on his website, concern the health and safety of his constituents and the environment. He vows as Oregon house representative to work to protect the wild salmon of the Columbia River, secure affordable, accessible health care and prevent forest wildfires. He also aligns with typical progressive stances on issues, including LGBTQ rights, marijuana legalization, climate change and immigrant rights.
He commented on the family separation policy in June, “There is absolutely no reason to separate families or take small children away from their parents at the border,” Schrader said. “This totally unnecessary and cruel action calls to mind horrible decisions from history and it disturbs me to my core.”
Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95 (D-N.Y.), 23rd Congressional District in New York
Tracy Mitrano graduated from Cornell Law School in 1995, after receiving her bachelors as a first-generation college student at the University of Rochester. She received her masters and Ph.D. in American History from Binghamton University.
Mitrano lost to Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) in New York’s 23rd district, which houses Cornell University itself. Although Tompkins County voted in favor of Mitrano, the rest of the district voted in favor of Reed, who has served the area as congressman since 2010.
Mitrano campaigned as a liberal but “centrist” candidate. Although a gun owner herself, Mitrano advocated for universal background checks, and restricting guns from perpetrators of domestic violence. The former Cornell employee also advocated for the advancement of cybersecurity efforts at the congressional level, as well as the establishment of broadband internet access across the district. She also was a proponent for the legalization of cannabis and a decrease in interest rates for college loans.
Mitrano has often cited her academic experience and her cybersecurity expertise in debates with her opponent and said in a letter to The Sun that, “The years I spent in higher education inform my campaign.”
Robert Stefanowski MBA ’92 (R-Conn.), Governor of Connecticut
Robert Stefanowski MBA ’92 (R-Conn.) lost in a tight race. Running on the idea that “Connecticut needs a businessman,” Stefanowski’s race was too close to call at the time of publication, and he conceded the race Wednesday morning.
Stefanowszi won a highly-contested Republican primary, beating four other candidates. He took an unconventional path to the nomination, skipping four of the five party-organized debates.
“I think we’ve got momentum,” Stefanowski told The Hartfield Courant. “I think what’s going to get us over the hump today is change, political outsider, lower taxes, less regulation. People are frustrated.”
As governor, Stefanowski hoped to lower taxes, cut government spending and repair infrastructure.