Tickle torture led Royce’s new flack to the GOP

If there was ever any doubt about whether Audra McGeorge would pursue a career in politics, the name of her car lays it to rest.

“Pisastratus,” she says matter-of-factly. She named her 1991 Acura Integra after the Greek historical figure because “he supposedly saved democracy for ancient Greece.”

And if there was ever any question whether the 24-year-old Orange County, Calif., native would work for a Republican, a family ritual provides the answer.

“When [my sister and I] were growing up, and we would be tickled until there were tears coming down our faces, the magic word [for my dad] to stop tickling was, ‘Nixon’s innocent because he didn’t burn the tapes,’ ” she says, breaking into wild laughter.

McGeorge got her wish — and then some. She was recently promoted to press secretary to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and still handles her previous positions as legislative assistant and legislative correspondent during the transition.

Her congressional path is something she long predicted.

“I decided I was going to major in political science in eighth grade,” says the bespectacled alumna of the University of California, Berkeley, from a seat in the Rayburn cafeteria. “I can’t put my finger on what exactly fascinates me, but the fact that I hold three positions and am go-go-go — I must be attracted to the fast-paced lifestyle.”

These days, McGeorge keeps busy with Royce’s newly launched telephone town hall meetings, events that can keep her in the office as late as 11:30 p.m. She is also in charge of the office website, an e-newsletter and the ordinary responsibilities of pitching stories about her boss to the local press.

Although she gushes over her new responsibilities, things have not been entirely seamless. One Friday a few weeks ago, when she and her boss were walking to the Bloomberg and Fox Business News studios for interviews, they ran into blockades while police pursued a man with a gun and sword on Capitol grounds.

“The police officers are kind of looking at [Royce], kind of looking at me, not sure what they’re going to do,” McGeorge recalls. “And I’m thinking, ‘He doesn’t look dangerous, does he? Let him through! He’s got to do an interview.’ ”

McGeorge says she cannot imagine ever leaving the Hill, but confesses that she is contemplating joining the Peace Corps.

Her interest in international affairs began when she took a trip to China in the eighth grade as part of People to People International, a program started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. She became increasingly involved in college, when she lobbied the California legislature for divestment from Sudan to protest the Darfur genocide.

She does have one serious reservation about joining the Peace Corps.

“The only thing that really, really scares me are giant bugs,” she says. “And then I wonder, how many cans of bug spray can I bring?”

After talking for nearly an hour, she makes one other distinction while explaining why, in a crisp white shirt and a long necklace of black jewels, her fair complexion has turned a tomato red.

“I’m not so comfortable being in the limelight,” she says, pausing to chuckle, and then adding, “which might seem contradictory to this interview.”