A new congressman from Texas goes to Washington (and has much to do)

Michael Cloud is something of an Insta-Congressman.

Ten days after winning a special election to succeed scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, Cloud will be sworn in Tuesday as the representative for the 27th Congressional District, which stretches from the Gulf Coast to Bastrop County.

“When I pulled into D.C. and saw the Capitol and the skyline, it had a little bit of a different feeling than it did on family vacations,” Cloud said of his arrival in Washington on Sunday.

Cloud, a 43-year-old Republican from Victoria, will cast his first votes within minutes of being sworn in. He will take over Farenthold’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building and will move to reopen two district offices in Victoria and Corpus Christi.

“We’re trying to do in days what typically people do in months,” said Cloud, a communications consultant who on his first day in Washington as a congressman-elect was working out of his hotel room with his mobile phone and laptop since he couldn’t use his House office until being sworn in.

On Cloud’s to-do list: First up has been hiring staffers, opening the offices, setting up payroll and learning the legislative ropes as he jockeys for committee assignments. His fast-clip orientation has already included an ethics seminar, which Cloud said emphasized keeping campaign work and congressional work separate, and he has to do things like have his official portrait taken.

As for everyday things like finding a place to live — that will have to wait. “I’m going to stay in my office for now,” said Cloud. A significant number of lawmakers live in their offices — there are showers in the House gym — to save on costs. And Farenthold’s well-located office, allocated by seniority, is only a short-term stay. If Cloud wins a full term in November, he will have to be part of the office lottery, albeit with a little seniority over other freshmen.

Texas GOP political consultant Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said of Cloud’s quick turnaround time: “It’s a little like changing your school midway through the semester. He’s not going to have a lot of free time.”

Cloud will have 40 to 50 family members and friends on hand for his swearing-in. They’ll be able to watch from the public galleries in the House chamber as he’s sworn in to office — an unusual perk since members are usually limited to one or two guests after 435 House lawmakers are elected in November. Cloud will be the only representative taking the oath Tuesday.

He will find out this week what committees he’ll be assigned to. Farenthold was on the Judiciary Committee, Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but they do not transfer to a new member.

Cloud still has a campaign to go back to. His seat is up for election in November — Cloud’s fourth election this year. He survived the March 6 GOP primary and a May runoff to decide the GOP nominee for the 27th District seat in November, and he won the June 30 special election after Farenthold’s early exit.

“Even my best friends are asking, ‘How many times do I have to vote for you?’ ” he said.

He faces three opponents in the general election Nov. 6: Democrat Eric Holguin, Libertarian Daniel Tinus and James Duerr, an independent.

The special election was a recent add-on. Farenthold resigned in April after announcing his retirement late last year amid reports of sexual harassment accusations in his office and a federally paid settlement of $84,000 to a staffer. Farenthold reneged on a promise to repay the government. He also refused a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to pay for the cost of the special election.

Cloud doesn’t want to talk about Farenthold. “Old news,” he said. “The top priority has to be returning representation to the district.”

Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston, said: “Cloud must solidify a hold on a seat before the likely increase in Democratic attention and voting in 2020. Cloud ran a strong insurgent campaign, but that is difficult to sustain once you are an incumbent. He will need to walk a fine line between being part of the Washington establishment while not being seen as part of the problem.”

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