On the final day of orientation, new members of Congress, their staff and the media packed into a Rayburn committee hearing room Wednesday to find out their fate for office selection.
In alphabetical order, new members or their designees walked up to the dais, and picked a token with a number from one to 57, selecting which order they would choose their suite for the next two years.
“One thing I feel obligated to let you know is, two years ago when we were conducting the room lottery for members-elect, there was a direct correlation between the number you drew and the demonstration of something that brings luck to you,” said Superintendent of House Office Buildings William M. Weidemeyer.
And some new members certainly took that advice to heart.
Paul Woodward, who is married to Rep.-elect Gwen Graham’s chief of staff, Julia, did a back flip in the aisle before the Florida Democrat drew her number. The good-luck charm worked: Graham drew the number six and said, “That was the most exciting thing since election night!”
“We decided to do that literally at the last moment,” Graham said after the lottery. “I just thought it would be fun.”
Woodward, who was a collegiate gymnast, joked that his years of training led up to the lottery Wednesday. “I did 22 years of gymnastics so I could do a flip today,” Woodward said with a laugh.
Other members performed good-luck rituals. Rep.-elect David Young, R-Iowa, rubbed his fellow new member Tom MacArthur’s bald head as he walked up the aisle to the wooden box. But the New Jersey Republican did not bring Young any luck, who drew 48.
The member who had the worst luck of the day was Rep.-elect Barbara Comstock, R-Va., who drew the last slot: number 57. But Comstock laughed off her spot afterwards, opting to look on the bright side.
“I had just, on the way over here, talked with my colleague Robert Hurt from Virginia, who pulled the last number in 2010,” Comstock said. “So we were laughing about it and saying, ‘Well, hey, it’s a great office, whatever you get here.’”
Comstock added that she is familiar with less-than-desirable office spaces in the House, referring to her time working for retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.
“When I first started working here for Congressman Wolfe, I was on the Children, Youth and Families Committee and worked in House Annex 2. So I’m used to running around here,” said Comstock. “Now I don’t have to worry about it; I can go over to my lunch and have the afternoon free.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Rep.-elect Steve Knight, R-Calif., was feeling the pressure from drawing the number one.
“Now being number one, we’ve got to make the right choice,” said Knight. He joked he wanted to avoid a fellow member saying, “Boy, that idiot who picked number one, do you see the office he got?”
Knight said he was going to look at offices in Longworth House Office building, where 17 offices were up for grabs. In Cannon, 40 offices were available, while there were none in the more-coveted Rayburn building.
“We want to be in Longworth so we’re going to look at them all,” said Knight. “We do want to be on Armed Services so we’re going to look at that proximity.”
Asked why he would prefer Longworth over Cannon, Knight said, “To me, there’s two big reasons. One, it’s more central. And two, [it’s] got the big cafeteria.”
No matter which number they drew in the office lottery, the new members of Congress were quick to say they were happy to be working in the House in the first place.
Rep.-elect Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., was the second-to-last new member to pick his number, with 10 being the lowest number left. Zeldin, who served as a military prosecutor and was deployed in Iraq, noted it came down to him and Rep.-elect Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., a former Navy SEAL. Zeldin said, “Go Army,” as he drew the number 10.
“We’re going to go look at some of the offices in Longworth,” said Zeldin. “So we’ll try to make a good decision. But ultimately, at the end of the day, we’re just happy to be here.”
Roll Call Photo Editor Bill Clark was also at the event and caught some great moments during the lottery. Check out the slideshow of the highs and lows of the extravaganza below: