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 PappasNew Hampshire Rep. Kuster endorses Buttigieg Making waves to protect America's waters Norovirus sickened 18 at New Hampshire campaign stop 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 RaskinBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements House Oversight committee asks DHS for information on family separation Maryland Rep. Raskin endorses Warren ahead of Iowa caucus MORE (Md.), who earlier in the day participated in former Trump campaign aide Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiLewandowski decides against Senate bid Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race Trump on Harris dropping out of race: 'We will miss you Kamala!' 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 governor seeking to remove Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol Virginia lawmakers ask governor to remove state's Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (Va.), Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillDCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for 'Red to Blue' program Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address California Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE (Calif.) and Deb HaalandDebra HaalandImpeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Haaland, Davids included in 'Jeopardy' clue for historic first as Native American congresswomen Pelosi announces Porter, Haaland will sit on Oversight panel 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.