The Capitol’s Romantic Side

Posted June 10, 2008 at 4:40pm

When Javier Martinez and his girlfriend talked about getting engaged, he thought he’d take a humorous approach. But she made it clear that she “wanted to be romanced.” On June 28, 2007, they both got their way.

[IMGCAP(1)]Martinez, his then-girlfriend, Georgette Furukawa, and six colleagues took a tour of the Capitol. Furukawa assumed that after passing the top of the Dome with no proposal, that would not be the day they’d get engaged.

“I didn’t want to do it at the top of the Dome because that was too predictable,” Martinez said.

When they reached the balcony of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office, however, Martinez dropped to one knee and asked Furukawa to marry him. She said “yes” as their friends snapped pictures, and they are planning an August wedding.

Although Martinez, the newly elected president of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, and Furukawa, a former scheduler for Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), will marry in Honolulu, the groom-to-be said he wanted to propose in Washington to honor the couple’s ties to Capitol Hill.

“I wanted to propose here in the Capitol because this is where we met,” he said. The couple was introduced by mutual friends in spring 2004, but didn’t begin dating until several months later.

That Martinez should have met his future wife on the Hill seems only appropriate, given that he had a sort of love affair with Washington before he even arrived.

“I always wanted to work on Capitol Hill, so I purchased a one-way ticket to D.C.,” he said. “Five years later, I’m still here and I love it.”

He is a professional staff member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. And if he weren’t already here, Martinez, 32, says he’d be in graduate school or in the military thinking about Capitol Hill.

But he’s already done that, too. Martinez served as an Army specialist, and was stationed in Vicenza, Italy, where he learned the language. He eventually decided to major in Italian at the University of South Carolina. He then went for a second bachelor’s degree, this time in political science, at the University of Arizona before moving to Washington.

Martinez has been at his current job since February 2007. Before that, he spent four years as a legislative assistant to Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas).

[IMGCAP(2)]When it comes to sports, Martinez is loyal to his hometown teams, native or otherwise. Originally from Glendale, Ariz., he cheers on the Phoenix Suns and Cardinals, as well as the Washington Nationals.

The CHSA president emphasized that the staff organization is open to anyone, regardless of political affiliation and employment status.

“Our main objective is to increase diversity on Capitol Hill, specifically to promote the hiring and advancement of Latinos,” he said.

Adam Arguelles is Martinez’s vice president, and as loyal a sports fan as his colleague. Born in Martinez’s hometown of Glendale, Arguelles was raised in Westford, Mass., and essentially roots for all of Boston’s teams — the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. But he also cheers for the Georgetown Hoyas, the team of his alma mater.

When he’s not helping out the staff association, Arguelles is a floor assistant in the office of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a job he’s held since January 2007.

Clyburn is “one of the most inspirational, compassionate and wisest leaders in America,” Arguelles said. “He keenly understands people, personalities and relationships and the way that they affect the direction of this country. Serving in his office is a true honor.”

Arguelles previously was a staff member in the House Democratic Caucus office and interned for former Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.).

The CHSA vice president’s interests include international affairs, diplomacy and foreign policy. He graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in foreign service and studied abroad in Argentina and Spain.

He says most people would be surprised to hear of his background in a certain aquatic sport.

“I used to play water polo,” he said. “And no, the horses don’t drown.”

Teresa Bravo, CHSA treasurer and staff assistant to Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), is the most recent of the four to move to Washington, but she is no less enthusiastic about the city than her peers.

She paid her first visit to the capital in 2006, and the town stuck with her.

“I loved everything about it,” she said. “After my first visit, I knew I would be back. Never imagined it [would] be to work for Congressman Grijalva at Capitol Hill.”

Her path to D.C. began as an intern in Grijalva’s district office in Tucson, Ariz., and she says she connects with the Congressman on issues such as the environment, immigration and education.

“He exemplifies the uniqueness of our district and for this I am proud to be part of his team,” she said.

Bravo, 28, received her associate degree at Pima Community College in her hometown of Tucson and her bachelor’s degree in Mexican American studies from the University of Arizona, where she minored in sociology.

Lizet Ocampo fills out the CHSA executive board as secretary. She was recently hired as a legislative correspondent in Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) office after starting as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute graduate public policy fellow nine months ago.

“I have a passion for policy and politics, and I wanted to be a part of the process that creates positive change for our communities and country,” Ocampo said. “The unique time in our nation’s history and the fitting time in my life both provided an added incentive to come here looking for a way to make a difference.”

Ocampo, 24, previously worked for Google Inc. doing philanthropy research. She spent six months in Washington interning for the Department of Justice and the National Labor Relations Board before making the move officially.

Ocampo comes from Maxwell, Calif., and attended Stanford University as an undergraduate and graduate student. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science and completed her graduate work on social sciences in education, with a focus on policy and politics. As a graduate student, she provided policy recommendations to the California secretary of education. She also has studied abroad in Chile and South Africa.

A “proud daughter of immigrant farm workers,” Ocampo said her most memorable moment on the Hill came after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented minors, failed to receive the votes needed to proceed.

Menendez delivered “an amazing speech on the need of this legislation and the disappointment that it did not receive the needed votes,” she recalled.

Ocampo’s interests extend beyond politics and public policy, however — she used to sing and play guitar for a mariachi band, Mariachi Cardenal de Stanford.

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