SAN FRANCISCO — Kathryn “Kat” Cammack was left homeless less than a decade ago, but she will soon call the House of Representatives home. The 32-year-old, the youngest Republican woman ever elected to Congress, dove headfirst into congressional orientation for new members.
She’s not new to Capitol Hill, though: The deputy chief of staff to the retiring Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) will trade the tiny nameplate on her desk for a larger one in the hallway outside her own U.S. House office.
The GOP focused recruiting efforts on women and minorities in 2019 and 2020, and the result is the most diverse GOP freshman class in history. There were 22 Republican women in Congress two years ago; that will jump to 35 when new members are sworn in next month. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the incoming Republicans “the most diverse class we’ve ever had” in a press briefing. “Every Democratic incumbent who lost either lost to a woman, minority, or a veteran Republican,” McCarthy said.
Cammack will represent Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, a heavily Republican area of the state. The U.S. Naval War College alumna won on Election Day with 57 percent of the vote.
Raised in her family’s sandblasting business, she lived on her parents’ cattle ranch in rural Colorado until they were evicted. Cammack was homeless until Yoho asked her to work for him in Washington and helm his 2012 campaign.
“I know what it is like to have been homeless, and that was the catalyst for getting involved in the political process,” Cammack told Zenger News. “That was really the driving force for me. Some days on the campaign trail are absolutely brutal, but knowing the reasons behind why you are doing this keeps you going.”
Cammack ran as a constitutional conservative, blasting opponents to her political left as “chickens.”
“I am done with the Washington wimps who won’t support President Trump,” she said in one Republican primary ad. “The media and insiders can go to hell. I’m pro-gun, pro-life, pro-wall and I won’t let the crazy liberals destroy our economy.”
It didn’t take Cammack long to bristle at the Capitol’s gun-control rules when she arrived in Washington: The District of Columbia’s firearms laws are strict, but the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms take it up a notch.
“It’s new for a lot of us folks. I’m a concealed carry permit holder. There are rules like members cannot conceal, carry, or bring guns on campus,” Cammack told Zenger. “There was quite a shock for some of them, when they were told absolutely, no, you cannot have a gun on Capitol Hill, and you can’t have it on the House floor.”
Wearing masks as a Covid-19 prevention measure, like gun ownership, is something that the 50 U.S. states handle in dozens of different ways. In Congress, one standard applies to everyone.
“You’ve got members that come from states where masks are not mandatory,” Cammack said. “The restrictions on Capitol Hill are pretty stringent right now. There are frustrations with that, for sure.”
“So it’s just part of the learning process. And you know, that’s, that’s why we have orientation, so we can all get on the same page,” she said.
(Edited by Blake French and David Matthew, Map by Urvashi Makwana)
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