WASHINGTON - Paul Broun shook hands and traded backslaps on the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday as he was sworn in as Georgia's newest congressman, just a day after the state certified his upset election victory over former state Sen. Jim Whitehead.
'I'm glad to call you my colleagues,' the Republican doctor from Athens told the chamber after getting a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle. 'Just one week ago I was campaigning. Things have been moving very quickly since then and I'm just overwhelmed.'
Broun stunned Whitehead in the race to succeed the late Republican Rep. Charlie Norwood in Georgia's 10th District, which includes Athens and parts of Augusta. Whitehead, a Republican endorsed by the party establishment, had been the clear front-runner, having won 44 percent of the vote to Broun's 21 percent in a 10-candidate special election on June 19.
But in a July 17 runoff, Broun beat Whitehead by about 400 votes.
During Wednesday's ceremony, Broun was introduced by fellow Georgia Reps. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and Jack Kingston, R-Savannah. Lewis noted that Broun's father was a popular state senator.
'I must say he was a Democrat,' Lewis joked.
Kingston replied: 'But he sure raised his son the right way.'
Wearing a dark suit and red tie, Broun was sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. He refrained from casting his first vote on an amendment to a spending bill that came up immediately afterward, despite prodding from Pelosi. Broun later said he didn't know enough about the issue. His vote wouldn't have mattered as the amendment failed by several hundred votes.
Staying in a hotel for now, Broun arrived in Washington Tuesday night and began moving into Norwood's former office on Capitol Hill.
Still assembling his staff, he said he will stay through the week and begin participating in votes immediately. As a member of the Republican minority, he is slated to serve on the Homeland Security and Science and Technology committees.
'The people of the district have not had a member for a number of months, and there's a backlog of issues that need attention,' he said.
Without the benefit of group orientation sessions that are held for new members after traditional elections, Broun will have a lot to learn about navigating the Capitol.
At least temporarily, however, he will have one luxury usually reserved for more veteran members: choice office space. With seven terms under his belt, Norwood occupied prime real estate on the first floor of the Rayburn office building, a location that's far closer to the House floor than other newcomers' offices.
But the perk might not last for long. The office would be released into the general pool of available locations at the end of the session.