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AGE: 41 GIG: New U.S. Rep TALKING POINTS: Six months into his first term in D.C. and a member of the Republicans’ largest-ever freshman class, the former Indiana secretary of state is making waves, trimming fat, and crashing on his Capitol Hill couch.
One of the old bulls said to me, “You guys aren’t a class. You’re a herd.” I said, “Well, you’d better not spook us, because we’ll run over you.”
As secretary of state, I was used to making decisions and having agencies carry them out. You have levers that you can move at will. They may be fewer and not as long as the governor’s, but they’re still yours. Moving to the legislature was rough for a guy with my personality.
Now I’m just one of 435. The 4th District has 12 counties. I was used to dealing with 92 as secretary of state. We would drive 45,000 miles a year without leaving Indiana.
Freshman congressmen don’t get hazed, but some incumbents probably wish we did.
The House Budget Committee is a good place for a cheap person like me. At home, though, my wife prepares the budget. She’s a CPA.
I’m a commercial-rated pilot, and about half the time I fly myself to D.C. The plane is a Seneca II, a six-seater.
Between my partners and the bank, I think I own the left wheel.
In aviation, everything computes. Everything makes sense. In the job I’m doing now, serenity, logic, and freedom, in terms of your own schedule, are rare commodities. Aviation gives me all that.
I sleep in my office in D.C. Twin sheets fit the couch really well, and the vending machines in the basement are amazing.
Nancy Pelosi’s office is right across the hall from mine. I haven’t met her, and I don’t know what I’m going to say to her when I do.
Congressmen put on their game faces for C-SPAN. I’ve seen two people brutally debating each other on the House floor, and as soon as they’re off camera they’re running over to talk to one another. I observe guys joking it up after they’ve just beaten each other’s brains out.
I’m not there to joke around. I’m leaving my family to be there, and I have no sense of humor about the reason.
—as told to Evan West
This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.
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