Lawmakers beat reporters in annual spelling bee competition

Lawmakers beat reporters in annual spelling bee competition
© Cameron Hill

For the first time since 2015, lawmakers are smarter than journalists — at least when it comes to spelling.

Rep. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasPappas fends off challenge from ex-Trump official in NH Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP primary to take on Pappas MORE (D-N.H.) and his team of House Democrats bested members of the Washington press corps Tuesday night at the National Press Club’s annual Press vs. Politicians Spelling Bee.


Pappas, who once won a spelling bee at his elementary school in Manchester, N.H., prevailed over Politico’s Eric Geller by correctly spelling "beckmesser."

The New Hampshire Democrat was modest in his remarks after being crowned champion.

“Obviously, there’s the luck of the draw at work here,” he said in a brief interview. “There were tough words that folks were getting that there was no way I knew.”

The annual event saw six House Democrats — including 2015 champion Rep. Don Beyer (Va.) — face off against seven journalists from six different media outlets in a good-natured rivalry.

Proceeds from the competition benefit the National Press Club’s nonprofit Journalism Institute, which provides scholarships to train young journalists.

In the six years since the spelling bee’s revival — it has its roots in a 1913 event at the press club — each team has claimed three victories.

National Press Club President Alison Kodjak, a contestant in last year's competition, kicked off the festivities by telling audience members they will soon find out “who’s really smarter: our elected officials, or the journalists who write about them.”

“I’m pretty sure we all know the answer,” she joked.

On the lawmaker side was three-time competitor Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDemocrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins Congress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act COVID-19 and the problem of presidential succession MORE (Md.), who earlier in the day participated in former Trump campaign aide Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiGiuliani's son, a White House staffer, tests positive for coronavirus Chelsea Clinton blames Trump for Secret Service officers in quarantine More than 130 Secret Service officers in quarantine: report MORE’s contentious hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

“Well, I had a lot more fun at the spelling bee than I did at the Lewandowski testimony,” Raskin said in a brief interview.

During the competition, the former constitutional law professor was asked to spell “jurisprudence.”

“This is a beautiful word,” Raskin quipped.

Freshman Reps. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonVirginia voter registration website back up after outage on last day to register House advances bill aimed at imports tied to Uighur forced labor This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda MORE (Va.), Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Republican wins race to maintain California House seat after special election win Katie Hill to launch 'Naked Politics' podcast MORE (Calif.) and Deb HaalandDebra HaalandHispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump admin to sell oil leases at Arctic wildlife refuge before Biden takes office |Trump administration approves controversial oil testing method in Gulf of Mexico | Rep. Scott wins House Agriculture Committee gavel Progressives urge Haaland for Interior as short list grows MORE (N.M.) rounded out the lawmaker team.

The team of journalists was represented by Geller, 2018 champion Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post, her colleague Josh Dawsey, Daniella Cheslow of WAMU, Roll Call’s John Donnelly, Zoe Tillman of BuzzFeed News and The Hill’s Alex Gangitano.

Geller correctly spelled "etesian" and "chupacabra" but was tripped up by "noctidiurnal."

Pappas said he looks forward to defending his title at next year's competition, which will break the 3-3 tie.

“My term’s not up so I’ll be able to come back next year, right? Although we’ll sort of be in the throes of the election, so we’ll have to carve some time out for it to defend it,” he said.