Carving a Niche

Posted May 25, 2007 at 5:41pm

When their party took the majority in the House in November, there were plenty of Democrats who just couldn’t wait to get their itchy hands on some powerful committee gavels. Now a few panel chairmen are getting their wish. [IMGCAP(1)]

Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) has been channeling some of his Congressionally induced stress into woodworking, including fashioning California redwood into oversize handmade gavels for his colleagues.

Cardoza last week presented one of his products to House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), on whose panel Cardoza serves. He has made gavels for other colleagues, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, the other panel on which Cardoza sits. A spokesman said Cardoza likes to make gavels that fit the people who will be wielding them, describing Slaughter’s as “strong but feminine” and Pelosi’s as “bigger than the others” (we’re assuming Cardoza is thinking of the Speaker’s figurative stature, not her literal one).

Also in the production pipeline are gavels for House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), the Dean of the House.

Cardoza said he works on the gavels when he goes home on the weekends and can make one in about a day. “It’s amazing what a little grinding on the lathe will do,” Cardoza says of the stress-relieving properties of his craft.

HOH always knew the Congressional schedule could be a grind.

Feathers Today, Chicken Tomorrow. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) might have subsisted for a week on the food of proletarians as part of a challenge in which he ate on the same budget as the average food-stamp recipient in his state, but once it was over, he showed he has some rather expensive cravings.

After an early morning meeting of the House Rules Committee on Thursday, former Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) offered to buy the committee a post-meeting breakfast in the Members Dining Room, just like he frequently did when he chaired the panel. The current head of the committee, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) demurred, saying she thought everyone had busy schedules.

But when the room had cleared of the panel’s GOP members, an HOH spy overheard McGovern joking with fellow Democrats that they should have taken Dreier up on the offer — and then tried to eat a hole in his wallet. “We should have ordered South African lobster tails for breakfast,” joshed McGovern, who had earlier in the week concluded his food-stamp diet.

Cleveland Rocks. Bill Cleveland is back, baby. The affable former Capitol Hill cop (his famously cheery greetings to those entering the Cannon House Office Building near his post by the First Street Southeast entrance endeared him to Hill denizens) is running again for Alexandria City Council.

He’ll make his bid at a meeting of Alexandria Republicans tonight in which the party will choose its candidate for the special election, slated for July 17, to fill the seat left vacant when Andrew Macdonald resigned last week.

Cleveland, who is retired from the Capitol Hill police force, served on the city council from 1988 to 2003. He served twice as vice mayor, from 1991 to 1994, and then again from 2000 to 2003. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor and sheriff, and his campaigns have in the past gotten a boost from Hill staffers who got to know Cleveland from his days in the Capitol.

Could a third run be the charm?

Dead Letter Office. Which of the following factors would make you an unlikely candidate for getting an invite to a fundraiser by Pelosi? You are: a) a Republican, b) out of office, or c) dead.

Answer: none of the above.

Staffers in the office of California state Sen. Mark Wyland (R) were surprised to get an invitation from Pelosi faxed to their office, addressed to the Hon. William Craven. Craven, a Republican state Senator who died in 1999 after leaving the Legislature in 1998, happened to once occupy Wyland’s statehouse digs. The invitation was for a “Win the House 2008” fundraiser for Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on May 31.

Peter DeMarco, Wyland’s chief of staff, was bemused by the wayward invite. “Speaker Pelosi might want to invest in a California Almanac so she can keep up with who the current elected officials are in her home state next time she comes out here,” he quipped.

Craven, alas, will not be sending his regrets.

Something Cooking? Last week’s star-studded gala in honor of Paul Simon, recipient of the first-ever Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, attracted a bevy of D.C. power brokers, including presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and ex-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). But few of these boldfacers matched the enthusiasm of local restaurateurs Ann Cashion and Johnny Fulchino, co-owners of the popular Senate-side eatery Johnny’s Half Shell.

“Graceland is like my favorite album,” gushed Cashion, who showed up at the Warner Theatre in a sexy dress and fishnets. “I was weaned on” Simon and Garfunkel, Fulchino added.

Throughout the concert — which was nearly three hours long and featured everyone from Marc Anthony to James Taylor to Stevie Wonder — the two hooted and hollered, high-fived, repeatedly embraced and occasionally jumped to their feet. Fulchino couldn’t resist even playfully punching Cashion at one point.

So all this chemistry means the two are cooking up something spicier than their famed file gumbo, right?

Absolutely not, asserted Cashion. She and Fulchino are strictly “business partners,” the award-winning chef said.

David Drucker, Bree Hocking and Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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