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Washington • The camera crew waited outside the Capitol Hill Hotel, where Capitol Police stood guard and aides escorted the newly elected members of Congress from their temporary living quarters to a House office building a block away.
Members-elect from various states wandered by, some looking a bit lost, others more familiar with the city that soon would be their workplace. A few other reporters milled about, waiting for one person in particular.
Call it the Mia Love stakeout.
Love, Utah's incoming GOP member of Congress who is already attracting widespread attention, emerged from the hotel with her husband, Jason, and newly hired chief of staff, Muffy Day. A TV reporter, who was also black, asked Love about race.
"Let's acknowledge what we all know, that you and I both know, that you can't look at either one of us and not see a black woman," the reporter said.
"I think people will notice," Love responded, chuckling before launching into a stock answer that America's problems aren't color-coded.
It was Love's first foray into Washington after winning a close election to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson. She joined 49 others in the incoming freshman class, which is spending a few days this week and next in sessions geared to helping the newcomers set up their officers, learn the ins and outs of their new jobs i.e. how to vote, parliamentary procedure, ethics rules and get oriented to the maze that is the Capitol complex.
The orientation is jokingly referred to as the "first day of school."
"Once you know the rules around here, it's easy to know what to do," Rep. Candice Miller, R-Calif., chairwoman of the House Committee on Administration, advised during a meeting with the new lawmakers.
Love, donning a lanyard with her member-elect ID, sat in the fourth row of the auditorium for Thursday's morning session, bookended by her husband and chief of staff, occasionally taking handwritten notes or typing on her iPhone. Reporters were allowed inside the room for only a few minutes to watch the session, and several cameras focused first on Love, an easily recognizable character after national coverage of her election.
Miller noted that the new members would be schooled on a range of issues, such as how many staffers to hire, how much to pay them and how much taxpayer money they'd get to do so. And they'd also get the chance next Wednesday to play the office lottery and hope for a nice suite. Miller noted that not all the available offices would be convenient, especially those stuck on the fifth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, which is accessible only via a few select elevators.
"Everybody starts the same way," Miller added. "John Kennedy was on the fifth floor."
The new members spent most of the day in classes, though were able to socialize a bit with counterparts from across the country.
Rep.-elect Brad Ashford, D-Neb., said he met Love briefly the night before and was impressed.
"She started, 'How are you, and here are all my ideas,' " Ashford said of Love. "I was like, 'Wow, you have more than me.' I didn't know anyone had more ideas than I do."
Ashford, a former Republican, said Love represents a new wave of leaders like himself who aren't afraid to ruffle some feathers.
"She's a star," Ashford said. "Maybe she'll be vice president or something."