Heard on the Hill

Your Boss Lost the Primary, Now What?

Most say they wouldn't wait for their last payday before bolting for another job

North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers, left, lost her primary in June. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With primary season essentially over, some offices full of Capitol Hill staffers know they won’t have jobs after January.

If your boss lost his or her primary, your paycheck ends on Jan. 2, 2017.

All members are elected for a term that ends Jan. 3, so regardless of whether they lose their primary or general election, staffers are still paid through that date.

The Jan. 2 deadline doesn’t apply if your boss suddenly leaves office. Then the staff gets on the House Clerk's payroll until a new member fills the seat.

[What Happens on the Hill When Your Boss Suddenly Leaves?]

The staffers of Florida Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown, and Republican Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and J. Randy Forbes of Virginia are left looking for new jobs as their bosses all lost primaries this cycle.

Huelskamp staffer Jon Meadows hopes to leverage his pre-primary promotion to press secretary and his recent enrollment in the Naval War College to dive into a communications role with a defense focus.

The other offices did not respond to requests for comment.

As of today, Meadows is one of six staffers left in the Kansas Republican’s Capitol Hill office. There are also only six staffers left in Brown’s office.

While eight staffers are holding down the fort in Forbes’ office, only four remain chez Ellmers.

Fattah staffers are already out of a job. The Pennsylvania Democrat lost his primary in April but then resigned in June following his conviction on federal corruption charges.  

According to a flash poll Heard on the Hill conducted on Cloakroom, just under a quarter of the 59 staffers who responded by Friday afternoon said they would stick it out in the office until January if their boss lost a primary.

One anonymous user responded, “I’d start looking, but I’d have better prospects in the winter, so may as well see how much of that sweet leftover [Members' Representational Allowance] cash I can bonus.”

The MRA is the budget authorized by the Committee on House Administration for each member.

Eric Cantor's former staffers can tell you what it’s like.

In an upset in June 2014, the Virginia congressman became the first sitting House majority leader in American history to lose his primary.

[Eric Cantor Loses Primary in Massive Upset]

His upset loss to Dave Brat left all of his staffers empty-handed. Cantor delivered his farewell floor speech one month later.

His communications director Rory Cooper had worked for Cantor for two years and joined the bipartisan firm, Purple Strategies, in August 2014 to help design, sell and implement strategic campaigns.

His chief of staff, Steven Stombres, and deputy chief of staff, Kyle Nevins, teamed up to launch Harbinger Strategies, a government affairs shop, in early 2015. John O’Neill, a former counsel and policy director for Trent Lott when he was the Senate GOP whip, also joined them.

Stombres was with Cantor from 2001 until he lost the primary

But just this past August, Stombres was sworn in as interim mayor for the city of Fairfax, Virginia, after the mayor resigned amid a drug and sex scandal.

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