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Lottery Puts Prime Office Space Within Grasp of Freshmen

Rep.-elect Mike Fitzpatrick knows what it’s like to be last.

The first time the Pennsylvania Republican was elected to the House, back in 2004, he drew No. 37 in the office lottery for Members-elect. He got stuck on the fifth floor of the Longworth House Office Building, a relatively far trek from the House floor.

“I was dead last,” he said. “But I wasn’t five miles off Capitol Hill, so I was a happy guy. As far as I’m concerned, give me a voting card and a broom closet and I’m in business.”

Fitzpatrick lost re-election in 2008, but having won his 8th district seat back this year from Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, he returns with his two years of seniority intact. He gets to skip the room lottery and head right back to Longworth — but this time to the second floor.

“Once is enough,” Fitzpatrick said of the lottery.

The long-awaited room selection process for the House starts at 9 a.m. Friday. Members-elect will crowd into Room 2318 in the Rayburn House Office Building to choose numbers out of a box, and they should know who gets first pick and who gets last pick by noon.

A lot is on the line.

“There are better choices than there have been in the past,” said Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the House Administration Committee. “You had some very tenured folks leaving, and those offices were quickly taken by other Members.”

The domino effect freed up offices usually reserved for Members with midlevel seniority. Rayburn is full, Anderson said, but the other three House buildings have vacancies.

Members-elect follow alphabetical order to draw their numbers, so, as they say in the sports world, Rep.-elect Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) controls her own destiny. The goal is to follow in the footsteps of Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who each drew No. 1 and got their first choice for office suites in 2004, 2006 and 2008, respectively.

Rep.-elect Todd Young (R-Ind.) will pick last, and then he and his colleagues will be turned loose on the Capitol Ccmplex around 1 p.m. to scope out the real estate. Claims will be staked at a gathering back in Rayburn.

The incoming freshmen can send an aide to do the work for them, but since they’re taking their class picture at 8 a.m. on the Capitol steps anyway, they won’t be far away. And Anderson said the freshmen generally show up.

“It’s sort of an exciting rite of passage,” he said. “They pick their lottery numbers, and people ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ for the last and the first.”

Anderson said the drawing was moved to a smaller room than usual because of renovations. Considering the size of the historically large incoming class, this year’s lottery could be a squeeze.

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