Their names do not hang on the nameplate near the office door.
They will not appear on the ballot in November.
They do not have Congress voting card.
They are invisible in politics. They are Congress aides.
Reporter’s Notebook: Sitting on the tarmac
Congressional staffers come in all shapes and age-ranges.
The grizzled, budget reconciliation and House Rules Committee veterans in their sixties roamed Capitol Hill from the speakership of Jim Wright, D-Texas, in the late 1980s. But you’ll also find a whip-smart 21-year-old graduate of Elon answering the phones at the front desk of the freshman office on the sixth floor of the Longworth House office building.
And then there are all the assistants in between.
chiefs. Policy experts on US territories. Staff working on Judiciary Committee nominations. Professional researchers from the monitoring committee. Economists from the Joint Economic Committee. Social media managers. Speech writers.
They work late into the night, drafting bill text in a legislative counsel’s office deep in the bowels of the Cannon House office building. They get up early on Sunday mornings to hone talking points before their boss appears on the Sunday show.
During a pop-up July thunderstorm at a news conference in the House Triangle, they stood with umbrellas over congressmen’s heads to keep them from getting wet. Male aides sometimes come to the side holding the purse of a female lawmaker.
“This is mine favorite Part of the job,” quipped an assistant years ago, clutching his boss’s shoulder bag during a photo op.
If things go well, no one notices the assistants. The speech flows without interruption. The amendment enjoys bipartisan support. Maybe the assistants were patted on the back by the boss. Extra day off.
But people notice things Don’t do it go well
And in those cases, the lawmaker gets the blame. The man with the nameplate on the door. Name on ballot. Voting card.
That’s why many lawmakers are acutely aware — even if no one else notices — how obscurely-worked aides are essential to their success.
Good aides help lawmakers thrive in their jobs.
28-year-old Emma Thomson and 27-year-old Zachary Potts are two of those people.
Republicans and Democrats respond to representatives. Walorski’s Tragic Car Crash Death: ‘Just Bad News’
Thomson and Potts were recently killed in a northern Indiana car crash that left Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind. And another car killed the driver, Edith Schmucker.
Thomson is from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and served as Walorski’s director of communications. Potts is from Mishawaka, Ind., and served as Walorski’s campaign manager and district director.
Thomson previously worked for Reps. John Joyce, R-Penn., and Michael Burgess, R-Texas.
Potts also chaired the St. Joseph County, Indiana, Republican Party.
“They’re doing what aides always do when we’re not in session,” one GOP lawmaker told Fox by phone shortly after the accident. “Going around the district. Doing meetings.”
And anyone who knows anything about Congress knows that this is exactly what happens during congressional recess. Especially the long break scheduled in August.
Congress takes these breaks so members of Congress can return to their home districts and states. Make speeches. Visit with Rotarians. Seen at the ribbon cutting of the new hospital. Meet constituents at a Saturday morning “Congress on Your Corner” event or a “Congress at the Grocery” session.
They drive across vast districts and states pressing the flesh. They are reaching out to the people they represent. Appears on local radio. Volunteering at food banks.
And the tireless staff makes it happen.
Aides shuttle lawmakers between events amid packed schedules. That’s why a member can make calls to local mayors or talk to someone on their whip team back in Washington about an upcoming vote.
It’s go, go, go.
And assistants make it happen, happen, happen.
Emma Thomson and Jack Potts were doing what all congressional aides were doing that day: supporting their member. But at the same time, they are supporting the people of the 2nd Congressional District. Aides like Thomson and Potts were a force in Congress. Hours are passing. Salary is low. The gift? Knowing that the district has another big event to plan back to when it’s spent the weekend. Knowing it’s 11:30pm and the boss wants you to rewrite a speech – from scratch – before speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations at 10am knowing you’re at a Nationals game. It is below the 5th. But you should be back in Rayburn to talk to the manufacturers in the congresswoman’s district, so they won’t be blindsided by the new amendment.
Over the years, I’ve walked into congressional offices late at night and found aides sleeping with their heads down on their desks — because they had another four hours of work. They stole a catnap.
I’ve seen aides miss flights to France — where they were supposed to be maid of honor at a wedding — because votes on the floor took longer than they should have.
Funeral for Rep. Jackie Walorski set Thursday
Sacrifice of Congress aides. They give. They absorb heat. And they do it under the radar.
Emma Thomson and Jack Potts personify the unwritten, congressional creed of the crew. There are thousands more like them on Capitol Hill. Hart works in outer offices in the corners of the Senate Office Building. Behind nondescript doors in the dark corridors of the Capitol’s basement.
They are all there. You won’t see many of them.
Most people in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District have heard of Jackie Walorski. A small group from across the Hoosier state knew her. As a ten-year veteran on Capitol Hill, Walorski also has a limited national profile.
But almost no one has heard of Emma Thomson and Jack Potts.
The plane carrying the late Rep. Mickey Leland, D-Texas, crashed in Ethiopia in August, 1989. Leland aides Hugh Anderson Johnson Jr. and Patrice Yvonne Johnson died along with the congressman. Another assistant, Joyce Francine Williams, also died. She last worked for Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Calif.
Aide Gabe Sherman died in 2011 when a gunman shot former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Also injured: Gifford aide and future Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., as well as staffer Pam Simon.
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Their names do not hang on the Congress nameplate. They do not have Congress voting card. Their names will not appear on the ballot.
But congressional aides are often just as valuable as lawmakers.