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Winner in Texas Gains Coveted Office as Well as Congressional Seat

In a few cases this year, unseating an incumbent became a literal process.

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) conceded to Republican challenger Blake Farenthold in Texas’ 27th district Monday — three weeks after votes were cast. Since the concession came after the Nov. 19 freshman lottery, Farenthold’s spoils include not just Ortiz’s Congressional seat but his office too.

Ortiz’s 14 terms secured him a plush workplace at 2110 Rayburn House Office Building. Farenthold’s office grab is significant because he will be the only new Member in Rayburn in the 112th Congress. No Rayburn offices were free for the taking in the freshman room lottery.

In fact, Farenthold got to skip the uncertainty of room selection altogether.

“I went to watch them draw the numbers, and then I watched them kind of wander around,” Farenthold said Tuesday. “I didn’t go back to sit through the painful sorting and picking.”

Although he’ll be next door to home-state Republican Rep. Joe Barton, Farenthold didn’t seem particularly excited about the move. That could be because he’ll be allowed to keep the office for only one term.

He will have the Rayburn spot “for two years, and then I’ll go into the draw with the remainder of the sophomores,” he said, calling it a “two-year office.”

So while he’ll probably be kicked out of Rayburn if he retains his seat in 2012, he’ll never be relegated to the “Cannon cages,” the small and badly lit offices on the Cannon House Office Building’s top floor.

Neither will Rep.-elect Renee Ellmers. The North Carolina Republican lucked out by a matter of hours. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) conceded just after 3 p.m. on Nov. 19, about the same time the last new Members were submitting their room choices.

Ellmers doesn’t get to be in Rayburn, but as a seven-term Congressman, Etheridge secured a larger-than-most office at 1533 Longworth House Office Building.

Rep.-elect Ann Marie Buerkle will be one floor up in 1630 Longworth, which belonged to Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), who conceded Tuesday.

But there’s nothing special about the office. With just one term tucked under his belt, Maffei got his office in the 2008 freshman lottery.

If the incumbents lose in the two uncalled races, the same scenarios will play out.

Reps. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) have offices on Cannon’s third floor. Challengers Randy Altschuler and David Harmer, respectively, could take them if they can pull out victories.

Tricia Miller contributed to this story.

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