Groundhog babies in Rep. Duncan’s office share special day

Patrick Newton, deputy press secretary to Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), always thought that having a birthday on Groundhog Day was odd.

But ever since joining Duncan’s office, it’s not so weird anymore, considering that two other aides in the office — staff assistant Betsy Beeler and communications director Amy Westmoreland — also share his birthday this Saturday. Beeler is turning 23, while Westmoreland will be 31.

Newton, who turns 29, says questions about his birthday arose early in his tenure in Duncan’s office. “It was one of the first things they asked me when I came here,” he says, explaining that Westmoreland “looked at me with a blank look on her face” when he told her. She thought he was playing a prank.  

What’s more, Duncan hired all three aides in the same time frame.

“It’s strange,” he concedes. “It’s not like a regular birthday — it’s Groundhog Day.”

Newton, a former weatherman at WTAP, the NBC affiliate in Parkersburg, W.Va., as well as the Fox affiliate in Rapid City, S.D., was well versed in Groundhog Day lingo. “I tried to be a [wacky] weatherman,” he said. “It was a trip.”

The birthday plan is lunch out on Friday followed by an office celebration with cake. “We’re stealing each other’s thunder,” he said, explaining that co-workers “think it’s kind of weird.”

Nonetheless, for the three aides, he says, the shared birthday creates an interesting bond. “We always talk about it,” he says.

What’s his take on the groundhog — will he see his shadow or not?

“I’m an optimist,” he says. “I always go with the early spring because I hate winter. I always said if I didn’t have my birthday in February I wouldn’t make it through the winter.”





Rep. Schmidt has new,  less severe, hairdo

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) has been told she is looking younger these days with a brand new hairdo that gives her a more relaxed image. She has unraveled what used to be a tight slicked-back bun on her head and now wears her locks in a looser, more elegant style. The key to her new look: no more bows.

“It’s a new year, she wanted to try something different,” said Schmidt spokesman Ben LaRocco. “The first time I noticed it I thought she looked great.”

He added: “We’ve been getting great feedback. Don’t get me wrong, I try to be stylish but I don’t notice every detail. It was a kind of change. I don’t know whether it’s going to go back or what. She makes that decision every day. I’m not part of the decision process. I don’t pick out her outfits, either.”





Sighting: Dan Rather with blonde at Capitol


Former CBS newsman Dan Rather was recently seen with a pretty blond woman in the Capitol, asking Capitol Police about a good place to eat. Shortly thereafter, he was spotted in the basement’s Capitol carryout, giving a scene-booster to the newly revamped cuisine sold there, such as couscous and curry chicken.

The blonde appeared to be more of a colleague than a girlfriend (there was no hand-holding). Reporters were buzzing about the pair at the doorway.





Punctuation joins ethics on list of Don Young’s problems

Note to media consultants: Every once in a while, a brief grammar lesson might help make sure you stay on message.

Perhaps even more surprising than the fact that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is already running reelection ads is the fact that one ad features a punctuation boo-boo that might give people the wrong impression.

After Young gives a heartfelt speech about knowing that he is not irreplaceable, the final banner reads, “Alaskan’s for Don Young.” That might lead one to think Young only has one supporter left (i.e., “Alaskan is for Don Young”). We know he is facing some legal issues regarding his ties to Veco Corporation, but we didn’t think it was that bad!

Young’s media consultant, Art Hackney, had not caught the error until it was brought to his attention by ITK. He said it would be fixed immediately.

“The film company put it together, and I did not catch it,” Hackney said. “I’m glad somebody’s paying attention to notice something like that. It means they watched the ad all the way through.”





In Washington, it’s not what you know, but whom you know

When the Speaker of the House makes it a point to greet a lobbyist instead of the other way around, that’s the definition of clout.

Superlawyer-lobbyist Tommy Boggs, the name partner in Patton Boggs LLP, was chatting with several people, including ITK, at a reception for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) prior to their joint appearance at a National Press Club luncheon on Jan. 25. Suddenly, Pelosi broke away from a gaggle of admirers and greeted Boggs.  

“Hi, Tommy, how’s your mother?” she said, referring to former Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-La.), with whom Pelosi served in the House.   Boggs assured Pelosi that his mother, now 92, was well considering her advanced age. He explained that she now lives in Bethesda, Md., near his home and that of his sister, broadcast journalist Cokie Roberts, so both stay in close touch with her. Boggs and Pelosi compared notes on their respective families before she joined Reid at the head table.




Sen. Inouye to remarry in the spring

It may be 73 degrees in Honolulu today, but it’s getting even hotter in the office of Sen. Daniel Inouye.

The senior Democratic senator from Hawaii is planning a May 24 wedding to Irene Hirano, a woman he met 25 years ago, according to one of his hometown papers, the Star Bulletin out of Honolulu.

Hirano, 59, is the chief executive officer of the Japanese American National Museum. The wedding itself, set to take place in Los Angeles, will be small, private and simple to abide by the bride-to-be’s wishes.

This is the second marriage for both Inouye and Hirano. The senator’s first wife, Margaret, whom he was married to for 57 years, died in 2006. Hirano’s marriage ended 20 years ago.

Hirano will divide her time between Washington and California, among other parts of the country.