40 Under 40 State And Local Political Leaders To Watch In 2017

As a new year kicks off, many young elected officials continue or kick off their careers in state and local government. There any many at all levels of government but there are 40 of those state and local political leaders under the age of 40 that you should watch in 2017. They are those who will be in a position to continue to or initiate change in their states and cities. They are those who may be candidates for higher office in the next year or two. They are those who have moved into or are about to move into key leadership positions.

Names are listed alphabetically.

Kansas Rep.-elect Tory Arnberger (R)

Just a semester out of college and a year removed from an internship in the Kansas Legislature, Tory Arnberger is headed back to Topeka this time as the new representative from Barton County. Arnberger lucked out in her first campaign, not receiving opposition in either the Republican primary or the general election to become the third youngest Republican woman state legislator in the country. A substitute teacher, Arnberger will be able to put her knowledge of the schools to use as a member of the House Education Committee, while she also received seats on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Committee and the Federal and State Affairs Committee, both of which cover issues of importance to her constituents.

Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball (R)

The youngest woman in statewide elected office in the country, Ball has been an active presence around Kentucky since taking office as state treasurer in 2016. A frequent presence at events around the state, Ball has focused on increasing transparency in government and working on a variety of issues including pensions, higher education finance, state money management and the state lottery. She’s also working with Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, the nation’s youngest statewide elected official, on a variety of issues.

West Virginia Delegate Saira Blair (R)

The nation’s youngest state legislator, 20-year-old Saira Blair is starting her second term in the West Virginia House of Delegates in 2017. Blair, the daughter of a state senator, in her first term focused on a number of core conservative issues – including proposing legislation for permitless concealed carry – but also said that she was willing to break a no tax hikes pledge she signed in order to keep the state government open in the middle of a budget showdown. Blair now enters her second term as an old hand in Charleston but remains the youngest state legislator in the United States.

New York City Councilman Joe Borelli (R)

Joe Borelli was the first elected official in New York City to endorse President-elect Donald Trump and a frequent Trump advocate on cable news in 2016. Borelli, a former state legislator who represents Staten Island’s south shore, was a staunch Trump defender and now the closest ally in New York City government for a president from New York City. Borelli’s turn as an advocate for the nation’s first outer borough president also brought national attention to Staten Island, a development that can only help a borough largely forgotten by many.

Erie County Councilman Jay Breneman (D)
Jay Breneman is channeling his enthusiasm for Erie, Penn. into a political career that includes as much cheerleading for Erie as he can fit in. Entering his fourth year on the Erie County Council, Breneman is moving his passion for the city of Erie into a 2017 race for Erie mayor. An Army veteran and a social worker, Breneman has focused on a wide range of issues including mass transit, public works, veterans, economic development and housing. Breneman’s mission for 2017 is to convince Erie voters that a passionate cheerleader for their city with a background in social work is what they need in City Hall.

Wisconsin Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D)

Thirty-three year old Jonathan Brostoff is an unabashedly progressive lawmaker from Milwaukee and has been pushing liberal causes in Madison since his election in 2014. Brostoff has made mental health care one of his top issues in the state. A top supporter of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Brostoff has been involved in a variety of other issues including pushing for upgrades to the state’s juvenile justice system and working on police community relations. Brostoff enters his second term as the top Democrat on the Licensing Reform Committee. Expect to see Brostoff continue to push a progressive agenda in Madison as Wisconsin gears up for another competitive election cycle as Gov. Scott Walker (R) likely seeks a third term.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D)
The mayor of the Indiana town that includes the University of Notre Dame, Pete Buttigieg is trying to chart a new course for the Democratic Party nationally. A potential candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee this year, Buttigieg is saying that national Democrats need to pay attention to communities like South Bend and others in the Rust Belt and Midwest. Buttigieg, a 33-year-old Rhodes Scholar and Naval Reservist, says that this can include core Democratic Party issues but must include outreach to areas of the country that went to Trump over Clinton in the presidential race. Buttigieg burst on to the Indiana political scene in 2010 with an unsuccessful run for state treasurer, followed by his 2011 election as mayor, and has been mentioned as a future candidate for statewide office. Even if he does not end up as DNC chairman this year, Buttigieg is likely to be a key voice in the debate over the Democratic Party’s future and is a likely candidate for statewide office in either 2018 or 2020.

Ohio Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D)
Kathleen Clyde has made election and voting issues a key part of her agenda as she enters her fourth term in the Ohio House of Representatives. The top Democrat on the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, Clyde has battled Secretary of State Jon Husted on a variety of issues, including reducing early voting days and hours. She has also worked to expand voting for students and the state’s motor voter regulations. Clyde’s work on election policy is a continuation of her work as an election official, including running early voting in Franklin County during the 2008 election. Clyde is a likely candidate for the secretary of state’s office in 2018, when Husted will be term limited. The 2018 Ohio secretary of state’s race is one that is likely to draw national interest from both parties with the office being in charge of voting and election procedure in a key swing state and playing a role in the 2022 redistricting. Under the Ohio Constitution redistricting is controlled by a seven member state board that includes the secretary of state.

Kansas Rep.-elect Tom Cox (R)
Tom Cox enters the Kansas Legislature as part of a wave of moderate Republicans elected in 2016, many with backing from education oriented groups. Unseating a conservative Republican incumbent in the primary, Cox has placed among his top issues education, addressing the state’s budget deficit following massive tax cuts and local government autonomy. Appointed to the House Local Government Committee, Cox will be in a position to address the future of the state’s local governments, while his seat on the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee places him in a position address issues facing the growing telecom sector in the Kansas City region, where his district is located.

Maryland Sen. Bill Ferguson (D)

The youngest state senator in Maryland history, Bill Ferguson starts 2017 stepping into an important role in the Maryland Senate, as chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee. Ferguson will be charged with leading a panel in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which will review every appointment made by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). A Teach for America veteran, Ferguson has spent much of his six years in the Senate focused on education issues, particularly those impacting his Baltimore district. Ferguson was first elected to the Senate in 2010, when he defeated a six-term incumbent in the Democratic primary by 18 points.

West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (R)
Ryan Ferns starts his third year in the West Virginia Senate as the chamber’s new majority leader, leading Senate Republicans just three years after joining the party. A 34-year-old physical therapist, Ferns was a Democrat when he was elected to the state House in 2010 and switched to the GOP in 2013 and then captured a Senate seat the following year. In addition to his leadership duties, Ferns will be vice chairman of the Senate Confirmations Committee, where he will help vet nominees of Gov.-elect Jim Justice (D) as the state continues in an era of split government with the GOP controlling the Legislature and a Democrat in the governor’s mansion.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D)
The past year has been a good one personally for Steve Fulop but politically it hasn’t been his best. On the personal front, Fulop got married in July but in September saw his gubernatorial dreams vanish as New Jersey Democratic leaders rushed to line up behind retired Goldman Sachs banker Phil Murphy for 2017. While Fulop’s multi-year effort to make a move to the governor’s mansion in 2017 died, he remains the mayor of the state’s second largest (and growing) city, a hot spot for young professionals and the nation’s financial services sector. Fulop, a Marine veteran, is well positioned to win a second term in City Hall in 2017 and will remain a dominant figure in New Jersey politics. While he had the opposition of South Jersey Democratic leaders for a 2017 bid, Fulop is in a strong position for a future statewide run and maintains a perch at City Hall that will allow him to help shape the state and national conversation on a variety of urban and local government issues.

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway (D)
Nicole Galloway entered the Missouri auditor’s office by appointment in 2015, following a stint as Boone County treasurer. The state government she entered is being transformed in 2017, leaving Galloway as the only Democrat in a state constitutional office in Missouri. Galloway faces being her party’s top official in Jefferson City, while at the same time positioning herself for her first statewide run to keep her job in 2018 in a purple trending state that didn’t meet a Republican it didn’t like in 2016. Galloway leads an office that allows her to audit any state agency, giving her a watchdog role over Gov.-elect Eric Greitens (R) and Republican lawmakers for the coming year. Galloway’s challenge in 2017 is to position herself as an independent watchdog of state finances while appealing to voters that were trending Republican in 2016. Galloway’s 2018 chances are helped by the likely ballot presence of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), herself a former state auditor, who will be up for a third term and has a history of winning hard fought battles in the state.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D)
The first term mayor of Florida’s capital city, Andrew Gillum has been a city government veteran since his 2003 election as the youngest city commissioner in history. Gillum has used his time in city government to gain a network among progressive young politicians around the country and gain name recognition amongst the progressive movement in Washington. He was considered a potential candidate for Congress in 2016 and appeared on a long list of potential Hillary Clinton vice presidential picks in one of John Podesta’s hacked emails. Gillum is now considered a potential 2018 candidate for Florida governor.

Pittsburgh Councilman Dan Gilman (D)
At 34 years old, Dan Gilman is already a veteran of Pittsburgh politics, having served as his predecessor’s chief of staff before his 2013 election to the city council. Gilman has become the city government face of Pittsburgh’s millennial population at a time when more millennials are coming to the city seeking jobs in the growing technology sector. Gilman has championed issues of importance to the millennial population, including a walkable city and culture and nightlife. Gilman has also pushed a progressive agenda in city government, leading an effort last month to make Pittsburgh the first city in Pennsylvania to ban LGBT conversion therapy for minors. He also worked to create an independent ethics body for the city and on domestic violence protections.

Missouri Attorney General-elect Josh Hawley (R)
Josh Hawley was elected Missouri attorney general in 2016 on a classic conservative attorney general’s platform of exerting state level control and seeking to battle the federal government on such issues as health care, immigration, the environment and Second Amendment rights. Hawley though enters the attorney general’s office in an environment different than many of his peers around the country, with President-elect Donald Trump taking the White House and not having President Barack Obama to battle with. Hawley, a law professor, is likely to be a conservative spokesman in Missouri and nationally, following a role he carved out while teaching. Hawley is likely to use his past as an outspoken conservative voice to position himself to break out from the pack of conservative Republicans now controlling Missouri in an effort to position himself for a future run for governor or U.S. Senate.

North Carolina Sen. Jeff Jackson (D)
In 2017, North Carolina legislative Democrats will need to have a loud voice in an effort to have any impact. Jackson has proven that he is willing to speak out, particularly on social media to push his party’s agenda in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Those skills will be in demand as the legislative Republicans gear up for likely battles with Gov. Roy Cooper (D), along with the fate of the state’s bathroom bill and the redrawing of legislative lines for a 2017 special legislative election. He is pushing a Gameplan 2017 for grassroots Democrats in the state to work on in the special election. In 2015, Jackson found himself in being the unique position of being the only lawmaker to show up for work during a snowstorm and used the occasion to take to Twitter to tweet out what he’d do as a Legislature of one. Jackson, who is in the National Guard, is positioning himself as a leader in his party and potential statewide candidate.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson (R)

The second youngest statewide elected official in the country (a day older than the youngest), Mark Johnson takes control of North Carolina’s school system in the middle of a battle of who will have how much control. Weeks ago, outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature which took authority over the state education board from new Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and handed it to lawmakers, while strengthening the superintendent’s control. A court battle is now being waged over the new law. Johnson, a former county school board member, has pushed for the end of Common Core, increased school choice and reduced testing.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R)

The son and grandson of United States senators, Adam Laxalt possesses one of the most famous names in Nevada politics. The first term attorney general has used the office to promote a stop to federal policies, the Second Amendment, working on school choice and fighting terrorism, standard fill for a conservative Republican state attorney general. Now he’s actively exploring a potential bid in 2018 for the open governor’s seat in Nevada, a job his grandfather, Republican Paul Laxalt, held before becoming a senator. Adam Laxalt is the son of former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), and Paul Laxalt’s daughter, Michelle. Domenici did not acknowledge that Laxalt was his son until 2013.

Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard (R)
Term limits have been good to Tom Leonard, allowing him to move into Michigan’s House speakership as he begins his third (and last under term limits) term as a state representative. The 35-year-old takes control of the House as Michigan prepares for term-limits inspired change in 2018, with all four statewide offices up for grabs. Leonard, a former assistant state attorney general, has positioned himself as a conservative spokesman in the Legislature, with a focus on criminal justice issues. Considered a likely candidate for state attorney general in 2018, expect to see Leonard to use 2017 to continue positioning himself for a statewide run.

Florida Rep. Amber Mariano (R)

Twenty one year old Amber Mariano will be taking off her last semester of college to tackle her new duties as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. Mariano surprised Florida political observers by riding President-elect Donald Trump’s wave to narrowly defeat a Democratic lawmaker. The youngest state representative in Florida, Mariano has put higher education and sexual assault prevention at the top of her agenda in Tallahassee.

North Dakota House Minority Leader Corey Mock (D)
Corey Mock enters his third four-year term in the North Dakota House of Representatives as the chamber’s new minority leader. He also takes control of the Democratic Caucus after an election that saw the party lose seats in the Legislature and some of its most vocal members. Mock will need to put his legislative background to use in standing up for the party in a GOP-dominated state government, but also working with allies to position the party for rebuilding in the 2018 elections.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R)
Thirty-nine year old Josh Mandel has been on the rise in Ohio politics since his 2003 election as a city councilman in Lyndhurst. The former two-term student body president at Ohio State University and Marine veteran, Mandel is currently in his second term as state treasurer and gearing up for his second run against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in 2018. Mandel has moved on from his unsuccessful 2012 Senate race, where he battled a series of missteps, including declining open records requests for the background of aides he hired in the treasurer’s office. In the years since his 2012 race, Mandel has made local government financial transparency his top issue and was successful in a 2014 reelection battle, where Democrats sought to end his political career. Mandel enters the 2018 race with Brown and Ohio Democrats aiming to keep the Senate seat, while Ohio’s entire political landscape is being reshaped due to state term limits. Expect Mandel to spend 2017 fundraising while continuing to travel Ohio.

Nebraska Sen. Adam Morfeld (D)
The founder and executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, 31-year-old Adam Morfeld, has made a name for himself in the nonpartisan Nebraska Unicam on a variety of causes. Morfeld has introduced and pushed legislation for LGBT nondiscrimination in the workplace and called for the suspension of federal funding for faith-based foster care groups if they utilize religious beliefs in determining foster parents. The chairman of the Legislature’s Bioscience Steering Committee, Morfeld is leading the panel in crafting legislation to create a state plan for the STEM economy, create a state venture fund to create biotech companies and expand a tax incentive program to smaller biotech firms. Morfeld has also been tapped to co-chair a candidate recruitment program for the state Democratic Party. The Democratic Party post, along with the biotech legislation and continuing to push a progressive agenda promises a busy 2017 for Morfeld.

Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R)

Entering his second term in the Colorado House, 33-year-old Patrick Neville is now the body’s minority leader. One of the more conservative members of the House, Neville was a student at Columbine High School on the day of the 1999 shooting and is a supporter of gun rights in the state. Neville comes from a politically active family with his father, Tim, being a state senator, his mother, Barb, a former state Senate candidate and his brother, Joe, the lobbyist for a state gun owners group. Neville has outlined a conservative agenda for state House Republicans during the final two years of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) term. With Hickenlooper in the governor’s chair, liberal Democrats controlling the state House and Republicans the Senate, Neville will likely emerge as a key spokesman outlining an agenda for his party in the 2018 election.

Pennsylvania Representative Brandon Neuman (D)

Entering his fourth term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 35-year-old Brandon Neuman is not only a veteran of Harrisburg, but also the statewide circuit, having unsuccessfully run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2014. Neuman has made a name for himself in Harrisburg for his work on children and youth issues, along with issues relating to consumer protection and health care. He recently introduced legislation to expedite the processing of rape kits in the state. Neuman has been Pennsylvania’s leading legislative advocate for concussion prevention, drawing on his own days playing football in high school and at the University of Richmond, where he suffered four documented concussions. He has proposed baseline concussion screenings at the beginning of school athletic seasons, along with being a part of a national concussion prevention campaign. In the area of children’s issues, Neuman has pushed for increased programs to protect neglected and abandoned children in the state. Expect to see Neuman continue his work on youth issues and potentially another statewide race out of him in the coming years.

North Dakota Democratic Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen
The nation’s youngest leader of a major state party, Kylie Oversen faces a tough task in 2017. Democrats in North Dakota are seeking to move forward after a drubbing in the 2016 legislative elections, a cycle which cost Oversen her own seat in the Legislature. North Dakota Democrats are continuing to position themselves as their own state specific brand and not an outpost of a DC or coastal driven party one that is more centrist than the national party, focused on issues specific to North Dakota. While more centrist than national Democrats, North Dakota Democrats do push social issues important to their state including education, health care, the safety net and ending human trafficking. Topping Oversen’s to-do list is U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D) expected 2018 reelection campaign, when the national centrist leader is seeking to hold on to her spot as the state’s only Democrat in statewide office. If national Democrats want to define themselves as not just a coastal party, they best look to state leaders like Oversen and Buttigeg for inspiration.

New Hampshire Executive Councilor Chris Pappas (D)
Chris Pappas enters into his third term on the New Hampshire Executive Council in a different role than he’s had. He’ll be in the minority on the Council with a Republican in the governor’s chair after four years in either the majority or minority, but with a Democratic governor. New Hampshire’s Executive Council is a little known body, but one that wields power over state contracts, the state’s transportation plan and confirmation of Gov-elect Chris Sununu’s (R) appointments. The Executive Council has previously ended the state’s contracts with Planned Parenthood and has been the scene for partisan fights over a wide range of issues. As the senior Democrat on the panel for the next two years, Pappas is likely to hold the Democratic Party line against Sununu and Council Republicans in a Concord that will be controlled by the GOP for the next two years. Pappas could emerge as a 2018 challenger to Sununu, who will be entering the governorship following his own six-year stint on the Executive Council, where he led opposition to Democratic Govs. Maggie Hassan and John Lynch.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles (R)

The nation’s youngest statewide elected official, Ryan Quarles is positioning himself as a national spokesman for rural America. A member of President-elect Donald Trump’s agriculture advisory committee, Quarles has been a vocal advocate for his home state’s agricultural industry and farmers in general. Entering his second year as Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner, Quarles is likely to use the state’s new Republican-led Legislature to promote the agriculture industry and rural communities, while continuing to grow as a national agricultural leader in 2017.

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer (D)

With all of Ohio’s state constitutional offices open due to term limits in 2018, 32-year-old Chase Ritenauer is open that he is looking to make a jump from the mayor’s office in Lorain to the statewide political scene. Ritenauer is focusing his sights on the state auditor’s office, pointing to his work on government efficiency in Lorain and getting the city off of state fiscal watch lists. A Ritenauer run for auditor could see national attention from Democrats since the state auditor not only runs an 800-person office auditing government entities statewide, but also serves on the commission, which will handle Ohio’s 2022 redistricting. Expect to see Ritenauer to make a final decision on the auditor’s race in 2017 and continue to make his name known statewide.

San Antonio Councilman Rey Saldana (D)

Thirty-year-old Rey Saldana will spend 2017 aiming for reelection to his fourth and final term on the San Antonio City Council, but also likely continuing to position himself for a mayoral run in Texas’ second largest city. Saldana, an outspoken critic of Mayor Ivy Taylor, announced last month that he would not seek the mayor’s office in 2017, instead focusing on one last term-limited term as a councilman, but he did not rule out a 2019 run. Saldana has much in common with two of San Antonio’s most well known leaders, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and U.S. Housing Secretary and former Mayor Julian Castro, including following in the pairs’ footsteps to attend Stanford for college. While Saldana has said that his focus is on city government, the rising star could easily use a future stint as mayor to either position himself for a job in Washington or statewide run for a job in Austin.

Kentucky House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell (R)

With Republicans taking control of the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time in 95 years, 29-year-old Jonathan Shell will be the chamber’s new majority leader. Shell played a key role in the GOP taking control of the House, serving as the GOP campaign committee chairman, a role that saw him recruiting dozens of candidates statewide and traveling the state to raise money and help candidates. The win – which included defeating a long time Democratic House speaker – gives the GOP control of the entire Legislature along with the governor’s office, a scenario considered unlikely in Kentucky not long ago. The youngest state House member when he was first elected in 2012, Shell now finds himself as one of the most powerful people in Frankfort and joins Ball and Quarles as part of a new generation of GOP leaders in Kentucky.

Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld (D)
P.G. Sittenfeld has spent the better part of the last two years breaking out of his role as a councilman in Cincinnati to become a player statewide in Ohio. Last year he announced an upstart campaign for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination to face Sen. Rob Portman (R) this year and declined to drop out after former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) entered the race as a favorite of state and national Democrats. Sittenfeld was unsuccessful in the primary against Strickland, who lost to Portman, but developed name recognition statewide. He has continued to pursue growing his name statewide, becoming a social media powerhouse with frequent updates via a variety of outlets. Pushing entrepreneurship and millennial outreach in Cincinnati, Sittenfeld is well positioned for a statewide run in 2018, with his name mentioned as a potential candidate for either state treasurer or auditor.

Florida Rep. Chris Sprowls (R)
With Florida lawmakers limited to eight years in office, speakers tend to serve a single two-year term and Florida practice has speakers elected several cycles in advance. This is how 32-year-old Chris Sprowls, first elected in 2014, has been elected as Florida House speaker for the 2021-2022 term just weeks ago. Sprowls, a former prosecutor, has made criminal justice a top issue, stepping up to serve as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee for the coming session. Sprowls’ designation as a speaker-to-be will see him taking on an increasing leadership role and potentially positioning himself for a statewide or congressional bid after his speakership.

Kansas Sen.-elect Dinah Sykes (R)
A PTA president turned state senator; Dinah Sykes channeled her opposition on Kansas’ school finance change into a successful run for office in 2016. Sykes, part of a wave of moderate Republicans who won state legislative seats in Kansas this year, used her base amongst parents and school leaders to unseat a conservative Republican senator in the primary and then capture the seat in the Kansas City suburbs in November. Appointed to the education committee, among other panels, Sykes now is in a position to help craft changes to the state’s school finance formula, along with addressing the state’s budget crisis and tax plan.

Kansas Rep. Troy Waymaster (R)

Troy Waymaster will be taking on one of the toughest jobs in Kansas government in 2017 as the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. A third term lawmaker from a rural central Kansas district, Waymaster takes charge of a spending panel that has to address a $346 million deficit in the current budget and then immediately pivot to a projected multimillion dollar deficit in the budgets for the next two fiscal years. On top of this, Waymaster will also oversee a process of merging a new school finance formula into the overall budget, while another committee addresses the state’s 2012 tax cuts, which have contributed to the budget shortfall. Waymaster, who has pledged a pragmatic approach to the budget, has also tasked his budget team with reviewing recommendations in a state government efficiency study, which could lead to a series of battles over potential changes to how the state is managed.

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber
Term limited out after eight years in the Missouri House of Representatives, Stephen Webber unsuccessfully sought a seat in the state Senate in 2016. Now Webber, a Marine veteran, moves into a tough role in Missouri politics, heading the state Democratic Party. Webber takes over a party that started 2016 controlling all statewide offices except the lieutenant governorship and one U.S. Senate seat, and enters 2017 only controlling the auditor’s office and one U.S. Senate seat. Webber will be tasked with positioning the Democratic Party in a focus to gain state legislative seats in 2018 and defend U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Auditor Nicole Galloway, while also preparing for a 2020 challenge to Gov.-elect Eric Greitens (R). Webber will also have to navigate a Jefferson City that is will dramatically change without Gov. Jay Nixon (D) wielding a veto pen against the GOP Legislature on a variety of issues including Right to Work and the Second Amendment.

Kansas Rep. Brandon Whipple (D)
Entering his third term, Brandon Whipple is staying in the Democratic leadership in the Kansas House and taking on a new role as the top Democrat on the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee. From his committee perch, Whipple will be at the frontlines of debates over the future of the STAR Bonds economic development program, workforce development, job growth and the innovation economy in the state. A moderate Democrat with a proven ability to develop friendships and alliances on both sides of the aisle he will likely need those skills in a House of Representatives almost equally divided between Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans. Whipple’s background in bridge building makes him a key player in the likely battles to come this year in Kansas.

Washington Sen.-elect Hans Zeiger (R)

Hans Zeiger’s move from the Washington House of Representatives to the state Senate this year will put him in the middle of one of the state’s most pressing debates. Zeiger has been named as the chairman of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee at the same time as lawmakers start debating a legislative solution to a court mandate to increase spending on education in the state. The debate – which stems from a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling – includes defining what basic education entails in Washington State and then defining adequate state funding. Whatever solution lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee (D) develop will also need to pass muster with the Supreme Court. Lawmakers have delayed action on the education finance plan for years, with the Supreme Court in 2015 imposing a $100,000 a day fine for each day without a plan. Lawmakers have now set a 2017 deadline to create a response. Zeiger, who has been promoting bipartisan cooperation amongst young lawmakers as a state representative, will now find himself in the middle of the state’s top debate in his first days in the Senate.

Wyoming Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R)
Thirty-seven year old Dan Zwonitzer is an old hand around Cheyenne, now entering his seventh term in the state House of Representatives. Zwonitzer continues as chairman of the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, a wide-ranging panel covering everything from insurance and banking to local government and election law, along with roles on the state Building Commission and committees related to the state Capitol renovation. A prominent moderate Republican, Zwonitzer returns to the Legislature following a 2016 that saw both of his parents – his father in the primary and his mother as an independent in the general election – be defeated by the same conservative Republican for the state Senate. With an increase in conservative Republicans in the state Senate, moderate Republicans will look to stand their ground and Zwonitzer is likely to be a leader among the moderate Republicans in the state.