WASHINGTON – The size. The lighting. The proximity to Dunkin' Donuts.
The devil was in the details for Congress' new freshmen, who – after months of campaigning and raising money, then days of orientation – had to rely on Lady Luck for their new House office space.
One by one, new members were called up Friday to pick a white-and-black button out of a small mahogany box in the Rayburn House Office Building. The lighthearted lottery tradition gives all incoming lawmakers a fair chance of choosing an office.
The buttons were numbered from 1 to 85. The lower the number picked, the better the chance of choosing prime space.
Colin Allred, a Democrat from Texas, was the first to pull a number. He pulled out No. 4.
“I used my lucky rock," he said as he dug the stone from his left pants pocket. “This is like something to keep myself centered. It’s not really lucky. I decided it’s lucky. It worked today ... Any office here will be better than my campaign office.”
There were some tense moments as members drew their buttons, wiping away the hopes of other waiting freshmen. Like coaches during an NFL draft, members furiously scribbled on lined notebooks. Several of them sighed.
Denver Riggleman, a Republican from Virginia, calmed down only after being assured No. 14 was a safe pick.
“I’m good, “ he joked returning to his seat. “I was panicking."
Some freshmen danced on their way up to the box. Others had their spouses pick or said a prayer in hopes that a higher power could help.
Congresswoman-elect Sharice Davids, a former mixed martial arts fighter, ripped off her black blazer, flexed her muscles and did a handful of pushups before picking her number. The roars from her colleagues in the crowded room didn't seem to help, though.
"Don't do pushups," the Kansas Democrat said as her number, 65, was read aloud to the room.
Congressman-elect Ben Cline, R-Va., nabbed the first choice after picking No. 1. Congressman-elect Mark Green wasn't as lucky. He picked No. 85.
Green said later he has a history of picking the last number for offices in the Tennessee legislature, so he wasn’t surprised.