Heard on the Hill: Still a Riot, 10 Years Later

Posted November 15, 2010 at 6:54pm

When newlywed Layna McConkey Peltier headed to Miami in fall 2000, she expected to stay for three days.

She wound up staying three weeks and became a part of history.

Peltier was among those photographed in a moment dubbed the “Brooks Brothers riot.” The Nov. 19 incident happened during the 2000 presidential recount, when several dozen sharply dressed people, many of them GOP aides, protested a decision by the local election board to move the recount into a small, closed-off area. Dozens were involved, but it lives on for a handful of the protesters captured in a famous Reuters photo. So where are they now?

Kevin Smith is communications director to presumptive Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Garry Malphrus, then a top Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, is a board member with the Board of Immigration Appeals. National Republican Congressional Committee aide Rory Cooper is at the Heritage Foundation; House staffer Duane Gibson is a consultant for the Livingston Group.

Tom Pyle, a former staffer for ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), serves in a non-partisan role as president of the Institute for Energy Research. That’s not the only change. “I have less hair and my clothes have shrunk,” he jokes.

Matt Schlapp became President George W. Bush’s political director and is now a principal at Cove Strategies. Then a Bush campaign aide, he didn’t intend on getting photographed, explaining he “was in the photo as more of an attempt to make sure everyone stayed within the bounds.”

“I can understand why it still lives on because it really did capture a unique American political moment,” he says.

For Peltier, the recount came weeks after her wedding. She missed the first Thanksgiving with her husband but has no regrets. “Republicans or Democrats, no one’s vote should not be counted,” she says.

Peltier later worked as a lobbyist, and these days lives in Minnesota with her family.

“I hated to leave, but … I had three kids in three years. That had become a full-time job,” she says. “These three little people are pretty cool.”