Peoria Journal Star
December 9, 2006
Hare prepares to join House
Rep. Evans packs up his Capitol Hill office
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep.-elect Phil Hare kept a frenzied
pace this week as he met with key House Democrats trying to secure
his requested committee assignments and signed the lease on a
Capitol Hill apartment.
"You spend a lot of time just figuring out where you're going.
You get lost. I've done that," admitted Hare, who in between
meetings has had to address more mundane tasks, such as filling
out paperwork for health insurance.
On Jan. 4, Hare will be sworn in and officially take over the
House seat vacated by his former boss, retiring Rep. Lane Evans,
As Hare prepares for that day, Evans' remaining staff is tying
up loose ends to help ensure a smooth transition. They share a
tiny basement cubicle with one desk, one computer and one phone
until Dec. 15, when the last plug will be pulled.
On Capitol Hill, it's called a "friendly takeover."
Evans had endorsed Hare, his long-time district aide, who was
elected Nov. 7. Other exiting lawmakers, who are booted out by
voters, aren't inclined to help their replacements.
Hare said he hopes to hit the ground running by hiring Evans'
chief of staff Dennis King and office manager Eda Robinson to run
his Capitol Hill office.
This week, Hare met with several incoming Democratic leaders
including new Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and new Majority
Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C. Both campaigned for him.
He also met with the incoming chairman of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar, D-Minn.
Hare has asked to be placed on either the Transportation,
Veterans' Affairs or Education committees.
"Oberstar gave me some good advice. He said 'you might not get
all three, but that doesn't mean you don't have my ear,"' Hare
recounted. "That was very encouraging for me."
Hare joins more than three dozen Democrats newly elected to the
House and already has made some friendships with members from
Connecticut to Hawaii.
"I'm very excited about it. I'm nervous. These freshmen aren't
afraid to ask questions. They're on a mission to get things done.
And they're activists, which is great because that's what I am,"
Hare was scheduled to return to Illinois on Friday and hoped to
take a few days off.
"I'm tired, to be honest with you," he said, but he noted he
still has many details to work out.
Hare is keeping Evans' district offices in Galesburg, Moline
and Decatur so constituents will have no trouble finding him. It
also saves taxpayers' money, he said. Phone and e-mail service to
Evans' Washington and district offices will end Dec. 15.
Constituents will be able to contact Hare on Jan. 4.
"Some of the other freshman members are calling me 'Mr.
Lucky,"' Hare said, because he's not starting from scratch as many
of them are. "I said it's a blessing and a curse" to follow in the
footsteps of Evans, who spent 24 years in the House.
Speaking from experience, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who
followed former Rep. Pat Schroeder in office, advised him to "just
be yourself and realize you're different."
"For 24 years, he did a great job. But I'm not Lane," Hare
said. "My style is different. But our values are the same."
Meanwhile, office manager Robinson is overseeing the final details
of closing up Evans' congressional office.
She started packing boxes over the summer. The last batch of 49
boxes was sent to storage a few weeks ago, awaiting shipment after
his retirement is official.
Personal items, including the many photos of Evans and various
political celebrities that graced the walls of his congressional
office, will be shipped to his home in Rock Island. His
professional papers will be donated to Western Illinois
University, Robinson said.
"It wasn't until we turned in the keys and went to lunch that
the emotions kicked in," said Robinson, 50, who has worked for
Evans for 23 years.
At Evans' Moline office this week, Jerry Lack, his district
director, was still doing some last-minute packing of personal
items for Evans, who purchased new bookcases at his home to hold
the many awards and other memorabilia he's collected over the
years. The reality is setting in for Evans too. During one of
Evans' last visits to the Moline office, "he got a little
emotional as he saw us taking stuff down," Lack said.
Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.