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Standing Committee of Correspondents Election Decided by Coin Toss

The standing committee ensures the press has access to lawmakers throughout the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The standing committee ensures the press has access to lawmakers throughout the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The late-night Senate votes weren’t the only drama on Capitol Hill Thursday. Up in the Senate Daily Press Gallery, an election to fill a spot on the Standing Committee of Correspondents for the Daily Press came down to a coin toss.  

Four members of the press campaigned for three open spots on the committee that oversees the House and Senate daily press galleries. Matthew Daly of the Associated Press garnered the most votes, 161, while Jersey Star-Ledger’s Jonathan Salant was a close second with 157 votes. But The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and the Omaha World Herald’s Joseph Morton were tied for third place, each receiving 138 votes. O’Keefe said in a Friday phone interview he was approached after the votes were tallied and informed there was a tie. He then went to the a back room in the gallery where the ballots were counted.  

Staff members could not recall the last time an election ended in a tie. But, to O’Keefe’s surprise, the committee was prepared for this scenario, since committee rules dictate a tie is broken by a coin toss.  

“It was more dramatic than I anticipated and it was neat,” O’Keefe said. “And the great thing is, it shows you how steeped in tradition things are up here.”  

To O’Keefe’s fortune, the coin came up tails. “At that point it was just fate,” O’Keefe said. “It was kind of funny because it was a reminder that every vote counts.”  

O’Keefe said Morton was gracious in defeat, especially considering Morton worked hard in making sure that journalists came out to vote. To O’Keefe’s credit, he also lobbied for votes by bringing in some homemade Rice Krispies Treats and sending emails to daily reporters and Post staff. He did consider bringing pizza in for lunch but decided against it (though he admitted, “Maybe it would have helped”).  

This year’s election also included some unique campaigning. Salant made buttons and passed them out to reporters. Salant, who has been in D.C. for 25 years and once served as president of the National Press Club, said in a Thursday phone interview that the buttons weren’t a tactic to garner name recognition, but rather nods to his extensive political button collection.

“I did it because it’s an election and I’m a button person,” Salant said. The veteran reporter said he is looking forward to using his experience as a national and regional reporter to advocate for his colleague’s interests.  

“I want to know what people are concerned about, I want to know what issues people have,” he said. “I know where they’re coming from.”  

In odd years, three members of the committee are elected, while two members are elected in even years, meaning each committee member serves for two years. So, Salant, O’Keefe and Daly will join Kate Hunter of Bloomberg and Emily Ethridge of CQ Roll Call. As of Friday, Hunter is the new chairwoman of the committee, while Ethridge will serve as secretary.  

The committee is in charge of reviewing applications for Capitol Hill daily press gallery credentials. Over the summer, the committee garnered some press coverage of its own over the contentious decision to deny SCOTUSblog’s credential application . The Daily Press committee also works with the three other correspondents’ committees — periodical, radio-TV and photography — to ensure the roughly 1,500 credentialed reporters have access to lawmakers throughout the Capitol. Recently, the committees joined together to implore House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to reinstate regular pen-and-pad briefings.  


Standing Committee of Correspondents: SCOTUSblog Fails to Demonstrate Editorial Independence

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