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Fore!

His new distinction as best golfer in Congress, according to Golf Digest, could prove to be a real handicap for Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.). [IMGCAP(1)]

When Democratic businessman Joe Donnelly formally launched his second bid for Chocola’s 2nd district seat late last week, he took a swipe at Chocola’s game. According to the LaPorte Herald Argus, Donnelly accused Chocola of “working harder on his golf game at the country club than he is on the real needs of his constituents.”

Chocola, with a 0.5 handicap, is tied with Cassidy & Associates lobbyist Arthur Mason as the second-best golfer among government officials and lobbyists in Washington, D.C., as well as the top golfer in Congress, ahead of Rep. Mark Udall (Colo.), the second best golfer in Congress and the top Democrat.

“If he wants to join the PGA, then quit Congress,” spat Donnelly, who took 45 percent of the vote against Chocola in 2004. “I won’t be a good golfer [if elected to Congress]. … But I assure you I will be in my office every day.”

Ouch!

Before his opponent ever announced his candidacy, or his intention to make an issue of Chocola’s golfing, the two-term Congressman took a few questions from HOH about the Golf Digest listing. Asked if he really is as good as they say, Chocola opined, “My handicap is a good indication of my potential, not my skill.”

Asked which professional golfer he would most like to play against, he answered, “Fred Couples.” Of his favorite links, he said, “There’s no place like home — Elcona Country Club in Elkhart, Ind.” Chocola’s spokesman says his boss doesn’t play often in Washington.

Cardoza’s Revenge. You know what they say: Be nice to the interns — you might just work for them one day. Or there might be hell to pay, as was the case with former Vice President Al Gore after dissing a young intern named Dennis Cardoza, now a two-term California Democrat who succeeded Gary Condit (also of intern fame).

In 1979, the Washington Center internship program placed the young Cardoza, then a college student, in the office of sophomore Rep. Gore (D-Tenn.). “At that time, I had no idea who Al Gore was,” Cardoza reminisced on the phone to HOH. “His father had been a Senator. They thought he might be an up-and-comer.”

The day before he was due to arrive on Capitol Hill, Cardoza got a call from Gore’s office saying they had given the internship away to a judge’s kid from Tennessee. So instead, Cardoza was sent to intern in the office of then-freshman Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas). Twenty-five years later, Cardoza was sworn in as a Member of Congress standing next to the man who saved him from the gutter Gore flung him in.

With Gore out of the picture in 2002, Cardoza obviously didn’t come back to exact his revenge when he took office. But that’s OK, because he had already taken care of that during the 2000 presidential election, when Gore needed support from Democratic members of the California Assembly, which included Cardoza.

The then-vice president crashed the Democratic Caucus retreat at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley — red lights, sirens and all — and proceeded to make a pro-forma plea for endorsements. One man in the room of 47 Assemblymen rose and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Vice President. I don’t think I can do that.”

Silence befell the room. “I proceeded to tell the story of what had happened to me as an intern,” Cardoza said. “The whole room starts laughing.”

Gore’s retort: “Well now that you’re in politics you understand how important it is to take care of your district first.” (Uh huh — this from the man who would go on to lose his own home state to a Texan.)

Gore told Cardoza later that he never would have kicked him to the curb had he known then that the lad would wind up in politics one day. Cardoza, of course, turned the other cheek. He endorsed Gore and ended up working hard for him to become president.

Tonight, the former Congressional intern will receive the “alumnus of the year” award at the Washington Center’s 30th anniversary gala. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) will be honored for his work as chairman of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Congressional Forum. And House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) will receive an extraordinary leadership award.

New: Best Hair and Tan Awards. An aide to then-Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) flew back to Washington from Las Vegas on Monday, swooning all the way. The luxuriously silver-maned Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) was on the plane, and the former aide couldn’t take her eyes off him.

“His hair looked great. He has the BEST hair,” exclaimed the 32-year-old Ensign fan, now a Democratic consultant in town. “And he has the best tan. I’ve always thought so.”

Taking breaks from hyperventilating, she continued, “He’s very attractive. He looked really good when he got off the plane, and it’s a long ride from Las Vegas. A four-hour ride and he barely looked rumpled!”

Then the Ensign connoisseur, who asked that we not use her name so that she doesn’t become the laughingstock of Washington, D.C., proclaimed, “I’m nominating him for best hair and best tan award.” To which HOH thought, “Hmmm, good idea.”

So we hereby declare John Ensign of Nevada the first nominee for the first annual HOH “Best Hair” and “Best Tan” awards for Members of Congress. We’ll choose one House and one Senate winner in each category based on the number of nominations they receive.

Please send your submissions to HOH at hoh@rollcall.com. The deadline is close of business, Friday, Oct. 7.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.

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