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House Freshmen Learn Capitol Ways

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a few races still in doubt but narrow Republican control assured, the House's freshman class for the 107th Congress is learning the ways of the Capitol this week — and sounding hopeful notes that compromise might replace gridlock over the next two years.

``This is a bigger stage and probably more partisan, but people have to work together,'' said GOP Rep.-elect Ander Crenshaw of Florida, who once presided over a state Senate split evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

``We can't sit and wait for the next Congress to have a commanding majority — there probably won't be one,'' added California Democratic Rep.-elect Adam Schiff, who unseated GOP incumbent Jim Rogan in California's 27th District. ``We have to have a real willingness to work together and break the impasse.''

The freshmen are spending much of the week on such tasks as picking offices and touring buildings. On Tuesday, the Republicans are expected to re-elect their top four leaders: Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Dick Armey, Majority Whip Tom DeLay and GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts.

At a dinner Sunday night, GOP leaders reminded the new members of their rank-and-file that they are ``part of an effective team,'' said Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a top DeLay lieutenant.

``We told them we understand that on some issues, you have to do what you have to do,'' Blunt said. ``But we have also created a great sense of team — and they're a part of that team.''

Democrats appear likely to keep Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Minority Whip David Bonior and Caucus Chairman Martin Frost in a vote set for Wednesday.

As of Monday, there were 41 House newcomers — 28 Republicans and 13 Democrats — with unsettled races in New Jersey and Florida.

In New Jersey's 12th District, former GOP Rep. Dick Zimmer was still battling incumbent Democratic Rep. Rush Holt amid a state review of the ballots. The apparent 586-vote victory by veteran Republican Rep. Clay Shaw over Democrat Elaine Bloom in Florida's 22nd District was caught in the same Palm Beach County dispute enveloping the presidential race.

Besides that, Republicans now hold 220 seats in the incoming House and the Democrats have 211. There are two independents, one aligned with each party, effectively giving the GOP an edge of 221-212.

The outgoing Congress has 222 Republicans, 209 Democrats, two independents and two vacancies.

Doubts remained about three other races: in Minnesota's 2nd District, incumbent Democratic Rep. David Minge was preparing to request a recount of his 150-vote loss to Republican Mark Kennedy; in Michigan's 8th District, Republican Mike Rogers held a 152-vote lead over Democrat Dianne Byrum with a recanvass ongoing; and in California's 38th District, Democrat Gerrie Schipske was awaiting absentee and provisional ballots before conceding a 1,616-vote loss to veteran GOP Rep. Steve Horn.

The organizational meetings are taking place as the outgoing 106th Congress struggles to finish the long-overdue budget and the nation is held rapt by the Florida recount, which could finally settle the race for president and have a significant effect on next year's legislative agenda.

``We all have the sense that we're here at a historic moment,'' Schiff said. ``What we don't know is how it's going to turn out.''

The makeup of the incoming freshman class leans heavily toward public service, with 22 state legislators, two lieutenant governors, a secretary of state and several current or former congressional or White House staffers. Unlike past years, only 11 are attorneys, and 12 are from business — including Republican Felix Grucci of New York, whose family runs a major fireworks firm, and Republican Darrell Issa of California, who operates a car alarm company.

There is one famous former college football coach: Republican Tom Osborne, who coached the University of Nebraska and represents that state's 3rd District.

If Zimmer wins in New Jersey, he will join Democrat Jane Harman of California as former House members reclaiming their old seats. Rep.-elect William Clay Jr. takes the family baton from veteran Rep. William Clay Sr. in a Democratic Missouri district.

Two are offspring of ex-governors: Republican Shelley Moore Capito is the daughter of former West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore and Democrat Jim Matheson's father is former Utah Gov. Scott Matheson.

Rogers, of Michigan, is a former FBI agent. The CIA also is represented: Republican Rob Simmons, who ousted veteran Democrat Sam Gejdenson in Connecticut, earned two Bronze Stars in Vietnam with the Army before joining the CIA and serving five additional years in East Asia.

Rep.-elect Mike Honda, D-Calif., is a Japanese-American whose family was held in a U.S. internment camp during World War II.

That was long before the youngest member of the new class was born: Rep.-elect Adam Putnam, R-Fla., is just 26.

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