That's the question reverberating from the shores of Utah Lake to the banks of the Potomac since Democrat Bill Orton won Utah's 3rd District congressional seat. The political newcomer beat a former state senator in what was considered one of the most Republican districts in the nation.Heads are shaking and tongues are wagging; people are flabbergasted. Democrats in the district can't believe they finally voted for a winner; some Republicans can't believe they lost the seat; Congress is abuzz about this political upstart.
So who is this guy and where did he come from? According to friends and family, Orton is intellectual, private, sensitive and ambitious.
Orton, a bachelor who is 42, grew up in North Ogden. His father, Donald, is a retired firefighter who worked at Hill Air Force Base, and his mother, Caroll, is a homemaker. Orton is the middle of five children - one brother and three sisters.
"We were not a wealthy family and so . . . when each of us kids got 12, 13, 14 years old we started working at farms or whatever to help pay for our own school clothes and save for a car and things like that," Orton said.
The Orton family spent a lot of time hunting, fishing and camping together - particularly in Blacksmith Fork Canyon. Today, when Orton travels he often takes his parents with him; before heading to Congress in January they will vacation together in Hawaii.
The siblings were and are close: Youngest sister Sally Johnson of North Ogden said Bill used to show up unexpectedly to pick her up at elementary school in his black Thunderbird and take her to Kirk's Drive-in for a soda or ice cream cone before going home.
When Orton began thinking about running for Congress, he discussed it with his family. Family members told him they didn't much care for politicians. Orton promised to run a clean campaign and not let himself be corrupted in Washington if he won. His family gave him their support.
"I thought he had a pretty good chance . . . because I don't know of anything he's set out to do that he hasn't accomplished," Donald Orton said.
Orton graduated from Weber County High School. He says he was "kind of a small kid" and was very shy to boot: He devoted himself to his school books rather than athletics or socializing. He was an honor roll student."He was always studying, that's what I remember," said Johnson. "Any time of night I would get up he would always be out in the kitchen studying."
Orton milked cows each morning while in high school to earn spending money, his parents said. He kept that job while attending Weber State College - going to school in the day, working for the Internal Revenue Service from 4 p.m. to midnight, studying until 2 or 3 a.m. and then getting up at the crack of dawn to start his day all over.
"In school - growing up - I wasn't the most popular, I didn't date a lot, I wasn't in athletics," Orton said. "I was studious, kind of a bookworm, got good grades, went to college and worked full time. I have always been kind of a quiet person. I shocked everyone who knew me by going into politics."
Orton's dream as a youngster was to be an attorney, but he decided while a teenager that going to law school would take too much money, too much time and too many brains. Spurred by a fascination with ancient cultures, people and archaeology, he instead pursued a bachelor of science degree at Brigham Young University in anthropology/archaeology with a minor in sociology.
He also took a lot of accounting classes; he continued working for the IRS while at BYU and noted that "every time I took an accounting class I got a raise."
He worked for the IRS for an additional four or five years after he graduated from BYU before deciding to go back to school.
"I discovered it took less time to get a law degree than it would take to get a doctorate in anthropology," Orton said. "So my old aspirations came back."
While in law school, Orton started a company: Tax Training Institute, which provides one- to three-day seminars on tax issues for professional people. Over the past 10 years, 15,000 to 20,000 people in 45 cities throughout the United States have attended his seminars.
"In fact, about the only state we haven't done much in is Utah," he said.
Orton completed law school in two years and began a private practice as a tax attorney. His private practice and tax seminar business have kept Orton bustling around the country. In fact, the pace of his professional life may explain in part why Orton is still single.
"He just hasn't had time yet," said his father, Donald Orton.
His mother explains there aren't "many girls who are going to sit around home waiting for him to come home and take them out."
Since his bachelorhood became a campaign issue, Orton's received some interesting proposals. Election night a female television reporter handed Orton an envelope inviting him to lunch; she included several photographs of herself.
"I'm flattered by those things, but I'm really a very shy kind of person," Orton said. "The people I date are friends I've known for years."
His idea of a great date is cooking a gourmet meal for the woman, going skiing, riding his horses - particularly his black Arabian, which he bought the day the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska and which is appropriately named Slick.
Among his closest friends are a former girlfriend, Candice Kelly Gasdik, and her husband, Nicholas Gasdik.
"She's the one that turned me down and wouldn't marry me," Orton said.
Nicholas Gasdik said six months after he and Candice married, Orton called and said if Candice had married him, he had to be a nice guy and that he'd like to meet him.
"Bill cooked us dinner, and it blossomed into a friendship," Nicholas Gasdik said.
Orton and his close group of friends hunt, fish and camp together. He is also an avid photographer, a private pilot and certified scuba diver.
He could have chosen to live anywhere in the country because of the nature of his business: Orton chose Sundance.
"Sundance is the most beautiful spot in the world," Orton said. "I love the people of Utah, I love the culture, I love Sundance. That is one of the hardest things I have to do (as a congressman) - spend so much time in Washington."
Orton's home is a three-story log cabin - big enough to accommodate overnight visits from his parents, brothers and sisters and his 13 nieces and nephews.
"He enjoys the solitude so much," Caroll Orton said. "He gets up there away from the rest of the world and can relax."
In fact, what Orton minds most about his new job isn't that his salary will be cut in half - he makes around $250,000 a year; it's his loss of privacy.
"I feel like when I go to the grocery store I can't sort through and pick out the best potato," Orton said. "Everyone is looking at you. That's the hardest thing."