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Freshman office lottery was all pomp and superstition this morning, as 85 new Members of Congress drew numbers out of a box to reveal the pecking order for room selection.
Members-elect drew alphabetically to “oohs” and “ahs,” claps and backslaps, amid the collegiate mood that permeated the House Science and Technology Committee hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building.
The stakes were high. A slew of defeated or retiring incumbents caused a domino effect of moving that freed up offices usually reserved for Members with midlevel seniority.
So when the bingo-like lottery announcer joked to the room that “Members or staff that come up and perform some kind of dance or lucky ritual always draw the lowest number,” he set off a chain reaction of bizarre, ceremonious token picking.
Rep.-elect Lou Barletta didn’t want to be the first to bust a move.
“I wanted to dance but just couldn’t,” the Pennsylvania Republican said, sagging his head low on the long walk back to his seat after picking No. 67.
Rep.-elect Jaime Herrera had a bit more luck with a shimmy up to the dais. The Washington Republican drew No. 8.
Rep.-elect Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) danced but picked No. 45. Rep.-elect Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) crossed his fingers behind his back, only to get No. 21. And Rep.-elect Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) knocked on the wooden dais twice, did a magician-like hand-sweep over the box, then chose No. 49.
Nothing was working. That is, until Rep.-elect Cory Gardner figured out the trick.
The savvy Colorado Republican picked his token without looking, and instead of handing it to the lottery announcer, he handed it to the man two seats to his right.
The result? No. 1.
He got a rousing standing ovation and a big hug from Rep.-elect Frank Guinta (R-N.H.). The luck didn’t rub off though. Guinta picked No. 65 a few minutes later.
Gardner’s trick, he said later: practice. “I practiced pulling tissues out of the box,” he said. “I’d pull 20 to 25 until I decided that my form was good.”
But Rep.-elect Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) obviously didn’t buy the story. He dragged Gardner up to the podium when it was his turn to pick, and before reaching into the box, he rubbed Gardner’s head and shoulders. Again, no luck: No. 52.
Before the rest of the eager Members-elect could start cutting off locks of his hair and making voodoo dolls, top-spot winner Gardner bolted the room to call his chief of staff.
“We are going to go looking around,” Gardner said. “We didn’t spend too much time looking because we didn’t think we’d ever get it.”