In the class of 2008, there were 11. Last Tuesday’s elections will send 33 small-business owners and entrepreneurs to Washington, according to The Agenda’s exhaustive (and exhausting) search. All are Republicans. Two are women.
Fourteen of them have never held elective office before. Most of the rest, though, have served in their state legislatures — and some even led their chambers. The campaign Web site of Daniel Webster, an air-conditioning service provider, boasts that as Republican leader in the Florida House, he “engineered the successful Republican takeover of 1996, ending 122 years of Democrat control.”
At least nine invest in, sell, or rent real estate. Seven own farms or ranches. (One does both.) One man built his enterprise into a large company before selling it to a private equity fund.
As with last year, The Agenda does not count professional practices (such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and consultants) or passive investors without significant daily managerial responsibilities or employees to oversee. We’ve also excluded people who sold or left their businesses more than five years ago. Finally, several races have not yet been officially decided, including three with candidates claiming small business or entrepreneurial experience, so we have not included them, either.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Ben Quayle, Arizona’s 3rd District: co-owns and manages APG Security Southwest, established as a partnership between an existing security company based in the Northeast and a venture fund Mr. Quayle operates with his brother, Tucker. The brothers look at 10 to 15 deals a month, said Tucker Quayle, but the congressman-elect has spent most of his time managing the 26-employee security firm, responsible for the payroll and sales and marketing.
David Schweikert, Arizona’s 5th District: manages and co-owns a real estate investment and management company that employs six part-time people. Mr. Schweikert got his real estate license in 1988, when he turned 18, but redoubled his efforts with the recent downturn. “We buy whatever seems to be a good value,” he said to The Agenda.
Jeff Denham, California’s 19th District: operates Denham Plastics, a company with $4 million in annual revenue and 10 employees that manufactures agricultural shipping containers. The idea for the business sprang from Mr. Denham’s previous company, a salad-bagging enterprise. He also owns an almond ranch with two employees.
Scott Tipton, Colorado’s 3rd District: with his brother, opened and runs Mesa Verde Pottery, which makes and sells Native American ceramics, employing 22 people. Though the company maintains a well known store near an entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, the company earns most of its revenue, according to the Pueblo Chieftain, from sales to other retailers, such as gift shops and national park concessions.
Robert Dold, Illinois’s 10th District: runs an extermination service, with nearly 100 employees in three states. The company, founded in 1860, bills itself as “America’s most experienced pest control company.” The Dold family has been involved since the 1920s.
Robert Schilling, Illinois’s 17th District: operates Saint Giuseppe’s Heavenly Pizza, a restaurant in Moline with eight employees and a menu that quotes New Testament verses. In the 1980s, just out of college, Mr. Schilling worked for a cardboard box manufacturer — and served as union shop steward.
Mike Pompeo, Kansas’s 4th District: co-founded, in 1997, Thayer Aerospace, an aircraft manufacturing subcontractor in Wichita that grew to nearly 500 employees when he sold the firm to a private equity fund in 2006. A decision to open a manufacturing facility in Mexico became an issue in both Mr. Pompeo’s primary campaign and the general election.
Alan Nunnelee, Mississippi’s 1st District: with his father, founded and runs interrelated companies that market small life insurance policies through funeral homes. In 2007, the insurance company earned almost $164,000, according to a state insurance department examination, although the company also paid substantial fees and commissions to family-controlled businesses for management and marketing help. As of 2007, Mr. Nunnelee was a minority owner in the combined enterprise. The company employs two additional people.
Bill Huizenga, Michigan’s 2nd District: co-owner of Huizenga Gravel Co., a second-generation family business with three employees. While owner, Mr. Huizenga worked full-time as a Congressional aide, and later served in Michigan’s House of Representatives.
Vicky Hartzler, Missouri’s 4th District: owns and operates, with her husband, Hartzler Equipment Company, a farm implement dealership with about 50 employees in three locations. They also farm 1,700 acres with three full-time employees.
Michael Grimm, New York’s 13th District: after a career that alternated between Wall Street and the F.B.I., opened a health-food restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2007, and ran it until he sold it in 2009. He is also co-founder and chief executive of Austin Refuel, which planned to recycle cooking oil in central Texas and convert it into diesel fuel but now distributes biodiesel manufactured by others.
Thomas Reed, New York’s 29th District: owned and managed two real estate ventures that employed 25 people (though he spends the majority of his time practicing law and was the mayor of Corning in 2008 and 2009).
Rick Berg, North Dakota: founded a predecessor to Goldmark Schlossman Commercial Real Estate Services, and is an owner and senior vice president of the firm, which has 15 employees. Even so, according to a spokesman, he earns the majority of his income from “various real estate partnerships.”
Jim Renacci, Ohio’s 16th District: part-owner and general manager of the Columbus Destroyers, an Arena Football league franchise. Before that, Mr. Renacci developed and ran a chain of nursing homes, and he has also invested in distressed companies. He has had a hand in up to 60 different companies over 30 years, according to a campaign aide.
Mike Kelley, Pennsylvania’s 3rd District: owns Mike Kelly Automotive, which was founded by his father in 1953. Until Mr. Kelly took charge in 1995, the dealership sold Chevrolet and Cadillac; within a few years, Mr. Kelly added Kia and Hyundai lines and now has 109 employees.
Mick Mulvaney, South Carolina’s 5th District: until September, owned and managed a restaurant franchise with 15 employees. From 2004 to 2007, he served as president of the family real estate development company, in which he had a small ownership stake. Since 2006, he has also served in both the South Carolina House and Senate; when asked by The Agenda how easy it was to simultaneously serve in the state legislature and run a restaurant, Mr. Mulvaney replied, “Not very.”
Reid Ribble, Wisconsin’s 8th District: took the reins of his father’s roofing company, now called The Ribble Group, in 1981 and ran it until 2009, when he sold it to his nephew. The business became an issue in the campaign after Democrats noted that the company, under Mr. Ribble, received a school contract funded by the stimulus plan after he claimed in the campaign that the stimulus “has done nothing to jumpstart the economy.”