After months (if not years) of laborious fundraising and meticulous campaign strategizing, the next big decision for House freshmen comes down to sheer luck of the draw.
New members will go through the tradition on Thursday of using a lottery to choose which office space they’ll get to call their headquarters on the Hill.
Since members with more congressional experience get priority and finished choosing their office spaces earlier this month, first-year lawmakers are left to scoop up the “cozier” accommodations.
Which offices are best and worst is a subjective measure — some members value size, while others want a quick trip back and forth from the House chamber to save time before and after votes. Some offices have larger lobbies for members and staff to receive visitors, while others have a grander space for the member’s personal office.
But there are some clues as to which offices are routinely considered among the worst — and could be at the bottom of the barrel for this year’s incoming class.
There are 10 offices that have been occupied by a different freshman member in each of the last five Congresses, according to a CQ Roll Call review of past House directories. This means all their previous occupants since 2007 either upgraded or left Congress after their first term.
Half those presumably undesirable offices are in the Longworth House Office Building, and the others are in Cannon. These are, notably, the two House buildings with no connecting underground train to the Capitol.
The Cannon House Office Building could be further stigmatized this year because of the discovery that occupants may have been drinking water tainted with lead since last fall. Signs in Cannon still advise visitors and Capitol employees to avoid drinking from the faucets there.
The fifth floor of Cannon is also notorious for its distance from the House chamber, and two of its workspaces are among those that have been occupied only by freshmen over the past decade. It’s not, however, where 2014’s lottery loser found herself.
Rep. Barbara Comstock occupies a second-floor Cannon office after drawing number 57 in last Congress’ lotto. The Virginia Republican’s office has been home to a freshman four of the past five Congresses, with only Democratic former Rep. Charles Wilson of Ohio holding onto the space for more than one term.
If Comstock’s office is among those whose occupants had the least seniority, former Rep. John D. Dingell’s office is the crown jewel of workspaces. The Michigan Democrat ended his 59 years of House service in Rayburn 2328, which is now the headquarters for Indiana Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, a 32-year House veteran.
The Architect of the Capitol declined to provide a list of open spaces available for freshmen of the 115th, but if history is any indicator, many of them will be in Cannon and Longworth. Only 13 freshmen have scooped up an office in the Rayburn House Office Building over the past decade.
Alex Gangitano and Bian Elkhatib contributed to this report. Clarification: The office number of Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Ind., has been updated to reflect its location in the Rayburn House Office Building.