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Freshman hazing: Arizona’s new lawmakers get Capitol Hill offices

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WASHINGTON – Weighty decisions abounded on Capitol Hill this week, but the decisions for Arizona’s three incoming congressmen came down to picking official stationery and the drapes that will hang in their new offices.

House freshmen danced, prayed and even invoked the luck of the Irish as they drew tokens Friday in a lottery to determine the order of office selection in the Capitol complex.

Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, refrained from spectacle and calmly drew No. 47 out of 70. She quickly shook off the relatively bad draw.

“The good news is everyone does get an office,” Sinema said. “I’m just hoping for something that’s left over, maybe in a little corner, tucked away.”

But not all suites are created equal – especially not the dregs that could be left for the lottery losers.

A list of available rooms in the Cannon and Longworth House office buildings showed options ranging from 831 to 1,105 square feet. Some were split suites, others had modular furniture, carpet or drapes.

Alongside that list were stacks of floor plans detailing the rooms’ proximity to the House floor, bathrooms or noisy hallways, among other idiosyncrasies.

Many representatives heeded House Office Buildings Superintendent William Weidemeyer, who opened the lottery with a winking recommendation for “superstitious gyrations and any kind of good-luck charms.”

Allison Jaslow, an aide to Rep.-elect Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., brought some delegates to their feet by drawing No. 10 after a cartwheel.

Rep.-elect Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., prefaced her pick with a nod to her hometown’s famous football team: “All the way from South Bend, Indiana … Go Irish! National champions!”

Walorski drew No. 6.

Some delegates drew top picks without any demonstration. Others took pains to bring about a little luck, to no avail.

Rep.-elect Juan Vargas, D-Calif., approached the box with gestures of prayer, but landed at No. 54.

“I didn’t pray hard enough,” he joked.

At least Vargas did better than Rep.-elect Steve Daines, R-Mont., who drew No. 70. The luckiest lawmaker on the day was Rep.-elect Julia Brownley, D-Calif., who pulled token No. 1.

Two floors down from the lottery, large meeting rooms awaited the freshmen with information about furnishing their new offices. Gold, green, blue and red drapes hung in one room, and stationery samples were stacked in the next.

But even among freshmen, seniority rules in Washington. Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, was allowed to pick her office Thursday because she previously served one term, while Rep.-elect Matt Salmon, R-Gilbert, chose his office Wednesday because his previous three terms make him even more senior.

Sinema didn’t seem to mind.

“The idea of the office is not to have a ton of space or have the prettiest office or the best view – it’s to serve the people,” Sinema said. “As long as you’ve got some computers and chairs, you’re good.”