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 PappasOvernight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program Scott Brown's wife files to run for Congress New Hampshire Republican Matt Mowers jumps into key House race, setting up 2020 rematch 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 RaskinGOP seeks to keep spotlight on Afghanistan as Dems advance Biden's .5T spending plan Raskin writing memoir about Jan. 6, son's suicide House Democrats demand details after Border Patrol agents accused of profiling Latinos in Michigan MORE (Md.), who earlier in the day participated in former Trump campaign aide Corey LewandowskiCorey LewandowskiBiden White House moves to oust Trump appointees from advisory boards Trump budget chief refuses to resign from Naval Academy board Trump super PAC promoting Susan Wright ahead of Texas House runoff 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 races offer an early preview of Democrats' midterm challenges Late Capitol Police officer's family urges Congress to agree to Jan. 6 commission Administration withdraws Trump-era proposal to loosen protections for transgender homeless people MORE (Va.), Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillKatie Hill says 'it would take a lot' to convince her to run again for House The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' MORE (Calif.) and Deb HaalandDeb HaalandInterior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Harris in Shanksville honors heroism, courage of Flight 93 passengers Environmental groups call for immediate restoration of national monuments shrunk by Trump 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.