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Republicans use swag to lobby for open E&C spot

Swag is king. At least when it comes to the ultra-competitive House Energy and Commerce race.

Several House Republicans are jockeying for the open GOP spot on the panel by trying to tempt their colleagues with all kinds of district-based goodies. In recent weeks, candidates have given out everything from model cars and coasters to a variety of locally-made snacks.

“I have noticed the swag and gifts are higher now,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). “It’s very competitive to get on the committee and the next generation has to rise to the occasion.”

Several senior members of the committee, including McMorris Rodgers, are retiring, leaving behind a huge knowledge gap on the panel. The panel has one of the broadest jurisdictions on Capitol Hill, touching everything from public health to telecommunications to environmental issues. So the vacancies are bound to set up a highly competitive steering process in the next Congress.

But right now, at least four Republicans are vying to fill former Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-Ohio) spot. Johnson left Congress last month to become president of Youngstown State University.

Reps. Russell Fry (R-S.C.), Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.), John James (R-Mich.) and Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.), all freshmen, are actively campaigning for the spot.

Here’s a look at what some of these contenders have sent to offices:

Fry handed out pimento cheese dip and crackers.

Williams gave honey from his farm, a circuit board coaster, a challenge coin and two palm cards, including one from his official office and one from his campaign.

Langworthy fed leadership and committee members with Buffalo-style pizza. Here’s a picture with a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson, where Langworthy proudly notes the pizzas were cooked in a gas stove.

James sent out mini model Dodge Ram trucks.

“I’m proud to show off the brick, the resilience and the importance of my district,” James told us. “The perfect symbol is a pickup truck from my district.”

Swag surfin’: This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. Republicans were distributing gifts all around during the three-week speakership and vice chair races last year.

While it’s less common on the Democratic side, the minority party has also gotten in on the act. Notably, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) handed out goodies to colleagues during his successful bid to serve as a DPCC co-chair.

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), a senior member of the E&C panel, said gifting has always been part of campaigning for committee spots, acknowledging he has also participated in the practice.

“It’s not just gifts, it’s also soliciting donations for people, so it’s politics within politics,” Carter told us. “Whether that’s the best way to do it or not, that’s debatable.”

Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas), who many have speculated is also vying for the spot, told us he won’t be seeking the seat. Currently, there is no deadline to fill Johnson’s seat.

Mica Soellner

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.