Meet the Lawmaker: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)

What are the best and worst things about Washington?

The cherry blossoms. The worst would be when it snows, or [the traffic] congestion.

What is your guilty pleasure?

An occasional cigar.

What vote would you like to re-do?

I don’t really have one yet. I’m pretty comfortable with how I’ve voted so far. There have been a couple of votes I’ve made that have been against my party and our leadership. I voted against the release of the second amount of TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program]. I’m pleased with the independence I’ve been able to show, but I also believe firmly in Obama’s bold agenda and I want to support it. That’s why I ran for office.

What’s the craziest constituent request you’ve received?

In advance of the Inauguration — it was a very hectic time because we were not only trying to get

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ourselves situated, but we had 14,000 requests for Inauguration tickets. One of the most demanding of which was a woman who called saying she was bringing several busloads of [people from] her church, and none were from my district. She demanded tickets to the Inauguration for her and her 200 friends. We ended up steering her to our website, where she registered with everyone else for our online lottery.

Do you believe in UFOs?

I have no reason to believe in UFOs. Maybe I’d believe in them if I spotted one.

Have you ever had a near-death experience?

My wife and I were on our second honeymoon and we went to Hawaii. And I was swimming in the ocean when the riptide was so powerful that it held me down. And I realized that there was nothing I could do to get back up. It was actually very calming and peaceful. I just let go. And then I popped up. I was really surprised at my reaction in that I wasn’t panicking, I was just calm.

What’s your favorite hobby?

I like to hike and walk. And I am a voracious reader. I read a book or two a week. Largely history, biography and public policy. I’m in an amateur playgroup, the Providence Players. I have been an Irish cop, an entomologist, a psychiatrist, a murderer and many other roles.

How many autographs do you sign a year?

I don’t know that yet. I’m surprised anyone wants one. But there are some people who have asked for them. Hopefully the number will go up.

After a long night of votes, how do you unwind?

Usually by the time I get home, my wife and daughter are both asleep. So I’ll either read a book or, believe it or not, watch C-SPAN. I’m a glutton. I’ll watch hearings that I wasn’t a part of. I’m a policy wonk by nature. I even say to myself, “This is sick, what’s wrong with you, you live this stuff, how can you watch any more of it?” But I can’t help it.

As a freshman, what’s been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is the schedule. You’re in control of so little of it. I’ll set up all these meetings throughout the day and I’m going to miss a lot of them because I’ll be at votes. For instance, today I had two committee hearings that both started at 10 a.m. It’s almost noon now, and I haven’t stepped into my office yet today, and I’ve been here since 7 a.m.