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The ads plastered throughout the airport baggage claim were designed to catch the attention of Members-elect streaming into the nation’s capital, but Kristi Noem was too distracted to notice as she passed through Sunday.
The ads for cutting federal spending missed their mark as journalists quickly surrounded the South Dakota Republican, who had arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on her way to this week’s orientation for new Members.
Noem, a likely candidate for the House GOP leadership’s first freshman class representative, was on her way to L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, but first she had to fend off questions about joining the Tea Party Caucus, while her husband, Bryon, stood off to the side, chatting with a pilot. When she walked outside to hail a cab, the camera crews and reporters followed her. He waited for their baggage.
That’s when Rep.-elect Austin Scott (R-Ga.) came over to Bryon Noem and introduced himself and his wife, Vivien.
Much of the week will be like this for the freshman class of the 112th Congress — learning names, meeting spouses, dealing with the media.
Of course, some new Members aren’t under the same media glare as Noem. Alabama’s Mo Brooks (R) flew into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, took the bus to Greenbelt, Md., and rode the Metro to the hotel, according to his wife, Martha.
“Nobody was there at the Metro, taking our picture,” she said with a laugh. While her husband met with other incoming lawmakers before a reception Sunday, Martha Brooks sat in the lobby with her husband’s chief of staff and old friend, Mark Pettitt, thumbing through the itinerary for the rest of the week.
Brooks is one of the dozens of spouses to accompany the freshmen this week. Scott Hayworth, husband to Rep.-elect Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), leaned on a table in the media room as his wife was interviewed on camera. He insisted to the reporters who approached him that he wasn’t anyone of importance.
But according to Nan Hayworth, Scott’s the Washington man of the couple, because he comes to the District often on business.
Hayworth, who has never held political office before, said she’s looking forward to the orientation, though she’s dreading the office draw Friday. “Based on my luck in the past, I’ll end up in the sub-basement,” she joked. “I’m hoping this time, things are different.”
Minutes later, in walked Republican Jon Runyan of New Jersey. Runyan towered over the others in the room and chatted with everyone who approached him.
But although he’s new to politics, he’s used to the media spotlight — he’s a former lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles. Compared with the attention he dealt with in 13 years in the NFL, he said, “this is easy.”
On the opposite side of the room was someone rare in this year’s class: a Democratic freshman. Michigan’s Hansen Clarke is one of only nine newly elected Democrats, but Clarke said he remains optimistic.
“I was hoping to be in the majority, but even without it, I still will have a lot of resources to help the people I represent,” said Clarke, a Detroit native.