Utah congressman-elect Stewart in D.C. to get his bearings
Washington • Speed-walking between buildings and zipping through a maze of tunnels, Congressman-elect Chris Stewart is on the hunt.
As Utah's soon-to-be-newest representative in Washington, he has only 30 minutes to finalize his wish list of office suites before the choice sticks for the next two years.
Of course, with congressional hearings, meetings and travel, Stewart won't be camping out too much in his new digs.
"I should be looking at airplanes," jokes the former U.S. Air Force major about all the time he'll spend flying between Utah and Washington.
During freshman-orientation week Stewart was rushed through a whirlwind of educational seminars to get up to speed on what to expect when he's sworn in on Jan. 3.
For now, Stewart and his chief of staff, Brian Steed, are tucked into cubicle No. 73 in a giant room of new members still starry-eyed after their elections to Congress. So far, the Utah author and businessman and his new colleagues don't yet know their committee assignments or even how much they'll get for staff salaries.
The phrase "drinking from a fire hose" has quickly become part of his vocabulary.
"Everyone says it," Stewart notes, "but it's probably the best description."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz was there four years ago, trying to soak up all the new information he could. He doesn't have any good advice for Stewart.
"He's a tough guy," Chaffetz says. "I don't worry about Chris."
Stewart who will represent the 2nd Congressional District after Rep. Jim Matheson jumped to the new 4th District says he's learning a lot but also notes that some knowledge will naturally occur over time.
"I don't expect to learn everything in one day," he says. "And they don't expect us to, either."
Steed, who previously worked for the Senate, was a helpful sherpa for Stewart as they wound their way around the underground tunnels to escalators, elevators and stairs, but Stewart says he'll get the knack of it soon enough.
"If I get lost in a tunnel, I don't mind asking for help," he says.
Stewart, who has three of his six kids living on the East Coast, says he eventually plans to buy a home in Washington. For now, though, the focus is on finding an office.
Armed with a list of potential suites, Stewart waits patiently as the 13 new members who drew better lottery numbers get first crack. A new congresswoman picks 224 Cannon House Office Building, and Steed crosses it off the list.
Another nabs 419 Cannon. Then 137 Cannon gets taken.
On Stewart's turn, he still has some good choices, and he picks 323 Cannon.
It's the office vacated by North Dakota Rep. Rick Berg, who lost a bid for the Senate. Stewart is likely to paint over the large imprint of "North Dakota Legendary" that dominates the congressman's new personal office.
And if he ever needs a cup of sugar, Stewart can pop down two floors to visit Rep. Rob Bishop in 123 Cannon.