Odd jobs: New members of Congress bring diverse experiences

Republican Kerry Bentivolio speaks at his election night party in Novi, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. Bentivolio won the Detroit-area 11th Congressional District seat over Democratic physician Syed Taj. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Becoming a member of Congress is one of the hardest jobs to get. But there are a couple of well-worn pathways to election: Law degrees, political science expertise, and experience in local governing are de rigueur. Those credentials aren’t for everyone, however, and the newest crop of House lawmakers have some work experience that may surprise you.

Large-Animal Veterinarian: Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

Creative Commons photo by tasweertaker

Yoho upset outgoing Rep. Cliff Stearns to win his first-ever political race on Tuesday. Up until now, the tea partier has made a living as a veterinarian for large animals. According to Politico, he recently castrated a horse, then held up its testicles and said: “Washington needs a few more of these.” (We’ll leave you to come up with your a donkey-related joke about how he plans to work with Democrats.)

Army Captain: Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii

Photo courtesy Tulsi Gabbard

Scant few active-duty military service members grace the floors of the U.S. House and Senate these days. Incoming Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, is a captain in the Hawaii Army National Gaurd. Gabbard, 31, twice volunteered for deployment to the Middle East. (Former Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, failed to reclaim his seat in Congress this year after he missed much of campaign season for a deployment to Afghanistan.)

There are other active-duty service members in the new freshman class: Incoming Congressman Paul Cook, R-Calif., is a Marine Corps colonel. Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., is a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

Journalist and Domain-Name Purveyor: Trey Radel III, R-Fla.

Screen grab from Trey Radel campaign ad

After working as a reporter for various conservative media outlets, Radel bought — then sold — a community newspaper in Florida. He also founded his own communications firm, which bought and sold domain names for websites — including several that were sex-themed. As Mother Jones reported, some of those sites included Spanish slang for brothels and sex acts. Incoming Congressman Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., also had a stint as a local television reporter in the early 1990s before he launched his political career.

High School Teacher: Mark Takano, D-Calif.

Photo courtesy Mark Takano

Many members of Congress have teaching experience — often at the college level, and in areas like political science or foreign policy. Takano’s teaching record is different enough that he made it part of his “Teacher for Congress” campaign slogan. An expert in British literature, he spent more than two decades teaching public high school students in California. Takano’s congressional run didn’t come out of nowhere, though. He tried to get elected to the House of Representatives twice before: in 1992 and again in 1994.

Reindeer Farmer: Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich.

Photo courtesy Kerry Bentivolio

Bentivolio’s farm in Michigan is home to reindeer that pull Santa’s sleigh in various parades throughout the state, according to his website. He and his wife also have “a small flock of chickens, a 25-hive apiary of honeybees, and a 115-vine vineyard.” According to Politico, Bentivolio’s brother called the congressman-elect “mentally unbalanced.” Court documents from when he filed for bankruptcy two decades ago quoted the reindeer farmer as saying he had a “problem figuring out which one I really am, Santa Claus or Kerry Bentivolio.”