WASHINGTON – In front of a room full of fellow freshman members of the House,staffers and media,Rep.-elect Doug LaMalfa stood up,straightened his suit coat and proceeded to moonwalk across the room.
The California Republican from the 1st District had been warned – as had all House freshmen pulling a lottery number in hopes of getting first pick for an office on Capitol Hill – that gyrating,dance moves and lucky charms would contribute to pulling a coveted-low number.
LaMalfa reached inside a small brown box filled with little white buttons,selected one and held it high above his head. Never taking his eyes off his fellow freshmen,he passed the chip to House Superintendent William Weidemeyer,crossed his arms and tried to look serious as he awaited the verdict.
“Mr. LaMalfa drew No. 34,” Weidemeyer said. LaMalfa grinned and flashed two thumbs up. From the 70 buttons,he’d made it just past the half-way mark.
LaMalfa and other freshmen members of Congress participated in the lottery near the end of two weeks of orientation. Incumbent members chose new offices earlier based on seniority,generally leaving smaller offices farther away from the Capitol for newcomers. Members of the 113th Congress will be sworn in Jan. 3.
“I got a little more amped up over that,” he admitted later while walking to the Cannon House Office Building with Kevin Eastman,his legislative director from his time as a California state senator. “When I make a speech,I’m usually calm.”
During two full weeks here,LaMalfa went to orientation,met his fellow House members and learned his way around. Navigating the tunnels and corridors connecting the office buildings and the Capitol is still a work in progress – Eastman had to check directions to get from the lottery draw in Rayburn,the newest building with coveted,spacious offices,to Cannon,the oldest congressional office building.
Cannon’s fifth floor is stereotypically for freshman offices,but LaMalfa was optimistic that if his number wasn’t low enough for him to pick a spacious second floor office,a fifth floor one would be excellent. Those who find their way to the fifth floor would be there for a reason,he said.
He’s already adopted the humor of others with fifth-floor Cannon offices. “Less riff-raff.” And there’s a ledge outside for a breath of fresh air. Or a grill.
“We already have our self-deprecating joke,too. That guy’s elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top,” he said,referring to elevators in the building that don’t reach the fifth floor.
A few hours after dancing his way through the lottery,LaMalfa chose Room 506 in the Cannon Building,which overlooks the courtyard. It is currently occupied by Rep. Andy Harris,R-Md. Harris told the freshman he was moving to the Longworth House Office Building to be closer to his committees,but the “view of the Capitol dome is one of the best on the floor.”
The office also has its own bathroom. That could come in handy should LaMalfa decide to live in his office,as other members of Congress have done,including former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. LaMalfa’s wife and four kids will live in California. He hasn’t looked into apartments yet.
“Which office area isn’t a big deal to most people,but it does set the groundwork for your staff is going to be effective,” he said. “Whatever makes it really nice for the staff because they’re the ones who have to spend the most hours there.”
Reach reporter Emily Wilkins at [email protected] or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.