WASHINGTON – They won their elections, but the really important contest for members of the incoming freshman congressional class came Friday, with the traditional lottery drawing to see who gets first pick of House offices.
Members-elect or their staffers gathered in the Rayburn House Office Building to draw numbers from an “ancient box” that would determine where they’ll be working for the next two years.
Bill Weidemeyer, the superintendent of House office buildings, presided over the event, warning that those who were among the last to pick their offices would have bad luck during their term in Congress. He encouraged members-elect to bolster their luck through various means.
“We’ve been doing this for a number of years, and I’ve had members come up and do a gyration or a dance,” Weidemeyer told the boisterous crowd as they waited in a committee hearing room for the drawing to start Friday morning.
The crowd appeared to take Weidemeyer’s advice. One member rubbed a bald man’s head as she walked up to draw her number. One congresswoman did push-ups, another high-fived the House staffers behind the podium at the front of the room.
Still others performed the “floss” dance popularized by the video game “Fortnite” – at the request of their children, they claimed.
While all House offices are equal, some are more equal than others. Only a handful are in the Capitol – most are in one of three office buildings on the south side of the Capitol complex, linked to one another by a series of tunnels. They vary slightly in size, but are prized for view and proximity to the Capitol.
Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Tucson, was spared the drawing because she’s served twice before – being unseated by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, in 2010 and then, after being re-elected the first time, giving up her seat in 2016 for an unsuccessful run against then-Sen. John McCain. Kirkpatrick, re-elected this year, retains her seniority, so she moved ahead of the true freshmen in the pecking order for offices.
Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was not so lucky – the Democrat, a true freshman, drew No. 82 of the 85 freshmen looking for their new homes.
Those members who drew higher numbers tried to ease their misfortune by saying thatÿat least they were “still a member” of Congress.
Stanton was not present when his turn came, so transition aide Eric Chalmers went in his place. Chalmers went up to Weidemeyer, took a selfie for luck, and then proceeded to pull No. 82 from the box, meaning his boss will be the one of the last new member of the House to choose his office.
“There goes my job,” Chalmers said as he returned to his seat.