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June 16, 2015

Roll Call Turns 60

Yudain, left, with Nixon, Roll Call's first subscriber. (Courtesy Lael Yudain)

Yudain, left, with Nixon, Roll Call’s first subscriber. (Courtesy Lael Yudain)

Roll Call celebrates its 60th anniversary Tuesday with the same mission dreamed up by founder Sid Yudain — serving as a hometown newspaper for the legislative community.

The front page of the first issue of Roll Call, published on June 16, 1955, featured a letter from Vice President Richard M. Nixon, whose interest spoke to the need and awaiting audience for Capitol Hill coverage from a different perspective. Full story

From Showcasing Sexy Staffers to Boozing With Members, Roll Call Has Endured

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

When you have 60 years of congressional and journalism history to sort through, where do you even begin? It can be a struggle to fully comprehend every twist and turn, to get your arms around the vastness that is six decades. So I return to Sid.

Sid Yudain, the man who founded this scrappy newspaper in 1955 as an aide to a freshman Republican from Connecticut, loved Congress. And over the years, Congress grew to love him back. Sid was Roll Call.

Full story

September 23, 2014

The Roll Call Fab 50: An Evolution Begins

Fab·u·lous (adjective): extraordinary, especially extraordinarily large.
amazingly good; wonderful.

What exactly is it that makes a Capitol Hill staffer so fabulous?

Roll Call has been publishing the Fabulous 50 list of the leading Democratic and Republican staffers for at least 26 years — possibly longer than some of the people striving to be on it have been alive.

To be honest, I hate it. Maybe that’s residual anxiety because when I was a kid, I used to want to make People’s Most Intriguing list, and let’s face it, that’s not likely to ever happen. Or maybe it’s just time the Fab 50 gets a newsroom makeover.

The twice-yearly project is compiled by Roll Call editors and reporters, and it details top aides who fit into four criteria. That’s “Mastery” for the Hill’s policy and procedural experts; “Influence” for individuals who drive the agenda, cut the deals, craft legislation and sway members; “Spin” for Congress’ best communicators who help set the tone and frame the debate; and “Access” for staffers who are in the room when decisions are made.

Full story

June 30, 2014

Could Congressional Sports Fix Washington? It’s a Start

Patrick Meehan and William Lacy Clay share a warm moment after the 53rd annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Patrick Meehan and William Lacy Clay share a warm moment after the 53rd annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the sixth inning of the 53rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, Republican Vance McAllister stepped up to the plate, snagging one of Democrat Cedric L. Richmond’s pitches and launching a grounder between second and third base.

Turns out, Richmond was giving McAllister exactly what he wanted. The two members of the Louisiana House delegation were on rival teams that night and are from warring parties, but one did the other the tiniest favor at Nationals Park on June 25.

The lawmakers quipped about the home-state camaraderie at the after-party, as McAllister’s kids eyed the snack bar and Richmond’s colleagues noted that even though the Democrats prevailed, his pitching suffered this year because he has a new baby at home. Even the coaches figured out the New Orleans-area congressman had helped his politically beleaguered pal from northern Louisiana belt a single, not that it really mattered.

They called each other “good friends.” And it actually sounded like they meant it.

When the game was called due to an impending lightning storm at the end of the sixth, I took the field to deliver the coveted Roll Call trophy to the Democratic victors.

As I stepped onto the grass, freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy of Florida asked me for a favor of his own — could I please snap a shot of him with Pennsylvania Republican Lou Barletta and text it to him later? The two grinned, and you could tell they had bonded on the field this year, setting party labels aside.

Full story

June 16, 2014

Softball, Sunshine and Sisters: Why I Play

Bellantoni greets fellow Bad News Babe Abby Livingston. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bellantoni greets fellow Bad News Babe Abby Livingston at the 2013 game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

About 75 minutes into the morning, I took a softball to my left shin.

The purple welt that formed soon after served as a nice distraction from the bruise about 2 inches above it, the result of a stray toss at a scrimmage last weekend.

It was my third consecutive day with less than five hours of sleep, after an intense and unpredictable week in the political news business. I’d started out on the field at 7 a.m., groggy and grouchy, mentally ticking off everything on the to-do list and preparing for a television hit in a few hours.

My leg hurt, but I was pleased I’d been a swift backup for the other outfielder, and that I’d gotten the ball into the shortstop’s glove.

As I walked into CNN later, someone remarked, “You sure look happy for getting up at 5:30 a.m.”

And this is why I play.

I have several goals for Wednesday’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which pits lady journalists against female members of Congress.

Full story

June 11, 2014

Mame Reiley: Loyal to the End, Celebrated With Champagne

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — “Her passion was contagious and energizing.”

That’s how Mame Reiley was memorialized Tuesday at her hometown church in Mount Vernon, by friends and loved ones who each said she inspired them to keep up the political fight to make the world better.

The Virginia Democrats most closely associated with the longtime campaign strategist, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. James P. Moran, sat in the third row in tribute, but they were hardly the only lawmakers cramming the pews of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. It was perhaps fitting that the service boasted at least three of the men vying to replace Moran in a Democratic primary being held the very day of her funeral.

The official license plates in the overflowing parking lot foreshadowed the crowd of city council members, former congressmen and state representatives in attendance — including former Republican state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, married to ex-Rep. Tom Davis , as well as former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

McDonnell, under indictment on federal corruption charges, joined others in receiving communion at the Mass. He told me he is going through “hell,” but wanted to celebrate the woman he’d known most of his life, having grown up on the same street as the Reiley family.

The politicians were but one testament to Mame being what so many dubbed, simply, “a force of nature.”

I was there because of everyone else. I’d heard stories about Mame from my friends in Virginia politics long before I had the pleasure of meeting her or hearing her hearty laugh.

And there they were, sprinkled among the elected officials — the state government workers, congressional aides and political staffers whose lives Mame touched in ways she may never have even realized.

Full story

January 28, 2014

Your Neighborhood Newspaper

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Sid Yudain.

It’s only natural the newly installed leader of the publication he founded in 1955 would take some time reflecting on the vision he had for it.

But this particular line of thought is about more than understanding Yudain, who died at age 90 last fall, and his legacy. It’s about recognizing what this newspaper represents to Capitol Hill.

“Over the years I noticed that the national and local newspapers paid little attention to the people in Congress or the community. … As time went on, I thought that maybe we could use a newspaper, just devote it to the Congress,” Yudain told us in 2011. Full story

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