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New Members Of Congress Compete In Office Lottery


In Congress, the first days for freshmen members are kind of like the first days of school. You have to figure out where you're going to sit. On Capitol Hill, sometimes the cool kids don't get the best spots. In fact, office space is decided by a lottery, as NPR's Brakkton Booker reports.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: This may be one of the few times political talent and who you know don't factor at all in where a new member of Congress ends up. Just before the lottery kicked off, Rep-elect Nanette Barragan of California fed me a line that is almost cliche.

NANETTE BARRAGAN: I'm just happy to be there.

BOOKER: They all say that, don't they? You want a low number so you can have your choice.

BARRAGAN: It would be great, but whatever office I get would be an honor to serve the people of the 44th and be here. So thank you.

BOOKER: Make no mistake. This is a competition. Bill Weidemeyer is the superintendent of the House Office Buildings, and he's presiding over the office lottery. He tells the members-elect that in years past, folks have resorted to cartwheels and backflips and prayers for good luck.

BILL WEIDEMEYER: So the more you do like that, the better your number will be.


BOOKER: One by one, members step up, reach into a wooden box filled with disks numbered one through 50. The rules are simple. The lower the number, the better pick you have of vacant offices. First up - Jodey Arrington of Texas.

WEIDEMEYER: Mr. Arrington picked number 14.


BOOKER: There are high fives and backslaps all around.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Way to go. Way to go.

BOOKER: It continues like this in alphabetical order. Thirty-seven and 45 are drawn. Four and 11 are selected early - and then back-to-back picks beginning with California's Lou Correa.

WEIDEMEYER: Mr. Correa drew number one.


BOOKER: That means Correa will get first pick of primo available office space, which makes him a good luck charm for those who are still waiting. Several members shook his hand, rubbed his jacket sleeve - anything to get some of that good juju. Next up - Florida Congressman Charlie Crist.

WEIDEMEYER: Mr. Crist drew number 50.


BOOKER: Some of his colleagues thank him for taking one for the team. Afterwards, though, Crist is all smiles.

CHARLIE CRIST: Well, you know, it's funny. I mean one of the guys who came up shortly after I got the last number, 50 out of 50 - and I came close him 'cause he said he wanted - or indicated he wanted me to stay away from him - he ended up pulling number two.

BOOKER: I meet Tom Suozzi of New York in the hallway. He's prepared to walk lots of flights of stairs.

TOM SUOZZI: I'm going to be, like, sweating a lot and looking at a lot of construction.

BOOKER: He's number - 36. But hey, at least he'll have better digs than his colleague from Florida. Brakkton Booker, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.