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Gangnam Style & Gymnastics At House Freshman Office Lottery

Perhaps someone should have chatted up U.S. House of Representatives Building Superintendent Bill Weidemeyer before heading to 7-Eleven to buy a Powerball ticket ahead of Wednesday's big drawing.

Weidemeyer could have made you a winner.

Weidemeyer runs the office lottery for incoming class of House freshmen who become lawmakers early next year. The freshman gathered on Capitol Hill Friday to draw lots and then scramble for the best digs possible.

"As for end-zone celebrations, we did a study on this," Weidemeyer said. "We saw very clearly two years ago with that class that superstitious gyrations or any kind of good luck charms that you do might help," Weidemeyer said.

And yet, the initial freshmen up in the lottery on failed to heed Weidemeyer's sage advice.

This lottery had 70 lots to draw when Weidemeyer began calling the roll alphabetically. At that point, each member-elect would walk up the dais of the House Appropriations Committee hearing room, sink his or her hand into a square, mahogany box and withdraw a white chip emblazoned with a number.

First up was Rep.-elect Andy Barr (R-KY). Barr drew 29.

Some groans went up from the rear of the room.

Next was Rep.-elect Joyce Beatty (D-OH). She was 31. Rep.-elect Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) got 60.

More groans.

Weidemeyer sighed.

"There have been no superstitious dances to this point," Weidemeyer reminded the rookies. "Don't be shy. Don't be afraid to let go. You're here among friends. And lots of media!"

And like a high school freshman egged on by one of the cool seniors, Rep.-elect Julia Brownley (D-CA) took a chance as she approached Weidemeyer. She bounced and weaved and briefly wiggled her hips. Brownley's classmates chuckled as she plunged her right arm into the box all the way up to her elbow. She then handed the chip to Weidemeyer without looking at it.

Weidemeyer glanced at it and shook his head.

"Ms. Brownley drew number one!" Weidemeyer proclaimed.

Brownley's jaw dropped and hung open for a few seconds in disbelief as she turned around to face her colleagues. They burst into applause along with hoots and whistles. Many rose to give the California Democrat a standing ovation. Brownley then raised her arms above her heads and took two bows for a curtain call.

"I have a feeling it's going to get wild in here," Weidemeyer said.

It's unclear if Weidemeyer offered any of his clairvoyance in either Missouri or Arizona earlier this week.

Brownley's act was hard to top. Would other freshmen do the samba or tango in an effort to trump her? Would a conga line break out? That responsibility fell to Rep.-elect Cheri Bustos (D-IL). Only Bustos wasn't there. The Illinois Democrat was doing an interview so she sent her incoming chief of staff Allison Jaslow as her proxy.

Jaslow walked approached the table very businesslike, offering none of the cavorting executed by Brownley.

"I'm sorry to disappoint," said Jaslow, who's served as an aide to Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA).

"Show us your moves!" someone hollered from the left of the room.

"Can we get a little bit of music?" Jaslow asked. "This is a lot of pressure."

"Not really," said Weidemeyer dry, drawing more laughter from the assembly.

Then Jaslow trumped Brownley. In spectacular fashion.

Jaslow placed her notebooks and iPhone on a nearby desk and looked squarely at Brownley.

"I will do a cartwheel," Jaslow said. "And if I get number 70, it's all on you."

Jaslow then took a few steps backed, removed her Congressional ID lanyard slung around her neck. Those in the room began to rhythmically clap. Jaslow then performed a perfect cartwheel in front of the dais. She even stuck the landing in a performance worthy of Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas.

The crowd of lawmakers-elect, Congressional staff and incoming aides roared in one what must surely be one of the most bizarre scenes to ever unfold Appropriations Committee hearing room.

Without missing a beat, Jaslow then sunk her hand into the mahogany box and withdrew chip number seven for her efforts. The crowd cheered even louder.

"There was a desire for theatre," said Jaslow later when asked why she did the cartwheel.

"We have an athletic chief of staff," Bustos beamed later after she used the high lottery pick to score office number 1009 in the House Longworth Office Building. "It brought us luck because she drew so well. We got our third choice."

1009 Longworth is one of the largest offices available to freshman. It's open because veteran Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) is using his seniority to move to even more commodious Capitol Hill digs. Still Bustos joked later that Jaslow could have done even more.

"I asked her to do a double back flip," Bustos said with a laugh.

Meantime, the freshman lawmakers began scouring the halls, checking out the offices. Some walked alone. Others brought with them teams of aides who sorted through extensive floor plans of the Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings.

Brownley wound up choosing 1019 Longworth, an office currently occupied by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH). But Brownley said earlier she liked Cannon "because of its historical features."

As Brownley walked over to the Longworth Building, she ran into Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) who was exiting his office to head to the Capitol for a vote. The two hadn't met yet. But Brownley immediately had questions for McDermott about Capitol Hill office politics.

"How many minuets does it take for you to get to the floor?" she asked. McDermott told her about five.

A total of 70 freshmen participated in this lottery even though the actual number of incoming members is 84. First of all, there are nine incoming lawmakers who served previously in Congress. In fact, Rep.-elect Rick Nolan (D-MN) is returning to Congress after a 32-year hiatus. He was last in office when Jimmy Carter was president. They conduct a separate lottery and due to their seniority, receive better office spaces. Then there are members who are freshmen who also won special elections earlier this month. They're already Members of Congress and are ahead of their colleagues who won't be sworn-in until January. That small group is comprised of Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Donald Payne Jr (D-NJ) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) and they're already in offices.

Rep.-elect Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) was given special consideration and assigned an office. She's a double-amputee from the Iraq war.

Rep.-elect Steve Daines (R-MT) drew the final lot, number 70.

"Fifth floor of Cannon," muttered an aide near the back of the room. Cannon's fifth floor is the least-desirable location for an office. The suites are cramped. Annexes across the hall from the offices are tricked out with gigantic storage cages. To maximize space, some offices assign interns and the lowest-level aides to toil in the cages.

But Daines doesn't know where he'll be yet. That's because there's still one outstanding House race. Reps. Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Jeff Landry (R-LA) face a runoff on December 8 because neither received more than 50 percent of the vote on election day.

Only after Louisiana voters select one of them will the House assign Daines an office.

It's a testament to the power of seniority on Capitol Hill.

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