While Perdue is the only new senator leaping into politics directly from a business-chieftain role, several other freshmen have significant business-leadership experience and sympathies. They include Cory Gardner of Colorado, whose family has owned a farm-implement dealership for generations, and Steve Daines of Montana, who spent a chunk of his career with Procter & Gamble and then joined RightNow Technologies, a software company.
Newly elected Mike Rounds, former governor of South Dakota, is former president and CEO of his own insurance and real estate business. Nebraska’s Ben Sasse was a turnaround expert at McKinsey before entering the government and academic worlds. Thom Tillis of North Carolina was a partner with PwC.
But not all former CEOs had a successful round this election. Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley lost to incumbent Dannell Malloy after Malloy’s ads accused Foley of laying off thousands at a company he owned, while walking away with millions in his own pockets. He even publicly blamed the employees for having to close the business. While the race was extremely close, residents in the blue state ultimately felt that Foley did not have their interests at heart. Also, less than two years after the Sandy Hook shooting, Foley, a former McKinsey executive, was publicly advocating for the NRA, which many felt was insensitive.
The outcome of this year’s elections is likely to salve memories from just two years ago of the failure of a similar opportunity for CEOs to greatly boost their influence in Washington, D.C. Besides Republican presidential candidate and former Bain Capital CEO Mitt Romney, losing candidates in 2012 included former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, who twice failed to win a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut. In 2010, both former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina ran strong but unsuccessful races for California governor and for a California seat in the U.S. Senate, respectively.