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Meet the Lawmaker: Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), 12th district

• Age: 67 

• Residence: Charlotte, N.C.

• Time in Congress: 20 years

• Significant other: Wife, Eulada

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Rep. Watt: All I ever wanted to be when I was growing up, since I was in the ninth grade, was a lawyer. Some teacher said, “You talk a lot; you question everything; you must be planning to be a lawyer.” I didn’t even know what it was, but then I started telling everybody I wanted to be a lawyer. So I’m way above my aspirations.

What is your favorite hobby?

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Rep. Watt: I used to play a lot of tennis until my knee started aching, and now I’m playing golf. I love music, I read a lot, so I try to find other avenues.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Rep. Watt: The North Carolina mountains. I enjoy Ghana in Africa; I enjoy Paris in France; I enjoyed the brief stay I had in Shanghai in China. There have been a lot of places I have enjoyed.

What is something you’re passionate about?

Rep. Watt: I’ve become more and more passionate about golf, although I didn’t start playing until I was 64 years old. It’s a difficult game, and I’m trying to master it before it masters me. 

What is your least favorite household chore?

Rep. Watt: All of the above … I do a lot of those things, and actually they are stress relievers, also, sometimes. And then at other points they are not — they are stressful. I washed a lot of dishes when I was growing up because I had two brothers and no sisters, and we did the dishes. I still kind of get joy out of doing dishes sometimes.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Rep. Watt: I used to eat a lot of ice cream, but I conquered that habit. It was my guilty pleasure; I used to have a bowl of French vanilla ice cream every night. But I realized that that was not good for me, so I think I’ve conquered it now. I still get some pleasure out of going back and doing it, though, so maybe it is still a guilty pleasure.

What do you consider to be your biggest political achievement?

Rep. Watt: My biggest political achievement actually was a failure. It was managing Harvey Gantt’s campaign against Jesse Helms for the U.S. Senate in 1990. We led in the polls the entire race, but we lost the election. And it was an exciting campaign. It was a fun campaign even though we lost. It was a disappointing campaign, and in many respects even Barack Obama has said that that kind of set the table for some of his political aspirations. So even though it was not a successful campaign in the sense that we did not win, I always view it as a wonderful achievement to have been close.