Here's what happens right after you get elected to Congress
A first-person account of the whirlwind that envelopes your life as soon as they call your race.
Last month, I was elected to Congress.
It was a great moment for our team, our family, and our supporters.
Here’s that moment:
But that was just a moment. That’s not the job.
The job started the next day, and it was getting ready for January 3rd.
January 3rd is the official start date. That’s when I’ll be sworn in as one of the newest members of the minority party on behalf of North Carolina’s 14th District.
I thought you might appreciate a first-person account of what it looks like to serve in Congress, starting with what happens right after you're elected - in part because it's just interesting, but also because transparency is good and you should expect more of it. So here goes.
In short, winning a congressional election sets off a whirlwind that quickly envelops you and your family.
Lots of people suddenly swoop in and fill your schedule, and they start by getting you up to D.C. pretty quick.
Your security situation changes very fast. You get briefings about steps that will now be taken to protect you and your family. It was more than I expected.
January 3rd is our official swear-in date, but being ready to serve constituents at that very moment requires a lot of prep work.
That means lots of conversations about getting on the right committees (seniority is important, but they also take regional representation seriously), which members are leading the charge in different policy areas, and what kind of software we need to handle the volume of email we’ll receive each day (it turns out there are competing vendors in this space and they all make very definitive claims about the superiority of their product).
In between those conversations, I'm conducting interviews for staff positions. We've received a flood of resumes from lots of really exceptional people and it's a humbling part of the process to choose among them to put together our team. I can already tell it's going to be a very, very strong team. Much of my ability to serve constituents will flow through them, so it's really important that I get this part of the process right.
There have been some IT conversations that have made me feel young. Example: When they gave me my laptop, they looked me dead in the eye and asked with total sincerity if I needed help turning it on. It gave me the feeling that maybe I wasn't their average congressional customer.
Then there’s the surreal stuff, the moments that felt like I was in a wax museum that had come to life.
I’ve followed national politics for years, but most of the people I’m meeting now are ones I’ve only known as two-dimensional characters in our national political drama. My image of them is built from snippets on TV, quotes in the paper, tweets and ads.
To suddenly be shaking hands with them - as they welcomed me to the building we’ll work in together - was pretty strange. To their credit, they were all exceptionally kind.
I’ve also never been offered so much coffee in my life. Every meeting began with someone asking if I’d like some. The whole place seems to run on it. I got lots of practice politely declining as I try to stick to one cup per day. (That said, my donut consumption has spiked.)
One of the real joys has been meeting other new members. It’s a young freshman class. Lots of young families, lots of stories about bringing kids on the campaign trail. For those of you who have told me you’re interested in seeing a new generation of leadership, you’re about to.
Regular politics has also begun, but not in the way you might expect. Internal politics is where the energy is right now, especially with the top three House Democratic leaders - Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Majority Whip Clyburn - recently announcing that they’re not seeking those leadership positions. I’m getting lots of calls from members congratulating me on our win, graciously offering to be of assistance during the transition, and - “hey just one more thing” - asking for my support for a position. It’s been an interesting way to meet some of my colleagues.
One of the best parts of orientation was that Marisa was able to come up with me. Ever since my first campaign we’ve always approached this challenge as a team, so to be able to spend my first week in D.C. with her by my side just felt right.
Next week: Getting an office, initial meetings with Republicans and Democrats, and getting the ball rolling on a legislative agenda.
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Why I’m doing this newsletter
I’ve done roughly 150 town halls in the last two years of campaigning, and it’s become clear from the experience that connecting directly with people is one of the most important parts of elected service.
Now that we’ve won, I want to keep it going - but I also want to expand it.
Part of that is going to be giving people something we don’t see often: a first-person, weekly account of serving in Congress.
I won’t have an abundance of time to do a lot of writing - so I’ll make it quick - but then again, you don’t have much time to read. So maybe it’ll be a match.
There’s no premium/paid version. Totally free.
Why does connecting directly with people matter? Because transparency is good in and of itself and you should expect more than you get from people in my position.
But there’s another reason: If we’re going to turn the page on a pretty dark chapter in American politics, we need more people in my position to use their platforms to inform, not just provoke.
I’m a member of a party, I have a political perspective, and I’m certainly fallible. But I’m not nuts and I’m not dishonest. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you should be able to read my updates and not have them ring your B.S. alarm. And that’s a healthy contribution to the political discourse in a moment when it really needs some rehabilitation.
In the back of my mind, I also have the sense that someday, far in the future, great-grandchildren of mine that I may never get the chance to meet might read these words, and to them I’ll probably exist only as the person who wrote them. And I’d like to make them proud.
Hope you’ll follow, and wishing you all the best.
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P.S. - From our family to yours, thanks for following and be in touch anytime.