U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), who trained as an artist, was nearly homeless for a time. A job working with truant high school students turned him around. "That I could actually help people rejuvenated me," says the first Bangladeshi American in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), who trained as an artist, was nearly homeless for a time. A job working with truant high school students turned him around. "That I could actually help people rejuvenated me," says the first Bangladeshi American in Congress.

KK Ottesen-for The Washington Post

As a school principal, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) refused to bow to pressure  when she tried to stop a garbage plant from being built across from her school. "Whenever something comes to me that is not just or will make a devastating impact on a group of people, and I feel that I can make it right, or fix it, then I go after it," she says. "And I fight. I fight real hard. "

As a school principal, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) refused to bow to pressure when she tried to stop a garbage plant from being built across from her school. "Whenever something comes to me that is not just or will make a devastating impact on a group of people, and I feel that I can make it right, or fix it, then I go after it," she says. "And I fight. I fight real hard. "

KK Ottesen-for The Washington Post

For New Jersey Republican Rep. Jon Runyan, the road to the Capitol detoured through the National Football League, where he played for 14 years with four teams. "Going into the campaign, everybody gives you the scary stories, you know, how tough it is, how nasty it's going to be. I'm like, <i> Okay, well, you see what I just got done doing for a living?</i>" he says.

For New Jersey Republican Rep. Jon Runyan, the road to the Capitol detoured through the National Football League, where he played for 14 years with four teams. "Going into the campaign, everybody gives you the scary stories, you know, how tough it is, how nasty it's going to be. I'm like, Okay, well, you see what I just got done doing for a living?" he says.

KK Ottesen-for The Washington Post

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is a decorated Army veteran. "I did 22 years' service in the Army. And I'm here continuing service to the country, just in a different uniform," he says.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is a decorated Army veteran. "I did 22 years' service in the Army. And I'm here continuing service to the country, just in a different uniform," he says.

KK Ottesen-for The Washington Post

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) says a road trip with his father helped spark his interest in politics. "We went ...  to Boston, to Lexington and Concord, Plymouth, the Salem Witch Museum. And then on the way back, to Philadelphia: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall. That trip, for me, was like the opening of a gate," he says.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) says a road trip with his father helped spark his interest in politics. "We went ... to Boston, to Lexington and Concord, Plymouth, the Salem Witch Museum. And then on the way back, to Philadelphia: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall. That trip, for me, was like the opening of a gate," he says.

KK Ottesen-for The Washington Post

Before she ran for Congress, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) was in the South Dakota legislature one day to talk to her representative -- and never got a response.  "I think it was the first time I thought: <i>Boy, if I was there, I would sure at least get back to people. </i>So I got to thinking that maybe I could do that," she says.

Before she ran for Congress, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) was in the South Dakota legislature one day to talk to her representative -- and never got a response. "I think it was the first time I thought: Boy, if I was there, I would sure at least get back to people. So I got to thinking that maybe I could do that," she says.

KK Ottesen-for The Washington Post