The impact of Tuesday's Republican landslide didn't hit Janice Williams until 5 a.m. yesterday when she bolted out of bed, ran into the kitchen, grabbed a pencil and began scribbling down the names of all her friends.
"I suddenly realized that I was out of a job," said Williams, a special assistant to Virginia's 10th District Rep. Joseph Fisher, one of the incumbent Democratic congressmen knocked out in the sweep of Republican victories in Tuesday's national elections.
"I'd been crying for him," said Williams, who earns $26,000 per year on Fisher's staff -- enough, she says, to support her 10-year-old adopted daughter, Emily, and herself. "Now, I'm crying for myself. My God! I've got a daughter who needs shoes and a mortgage to pay. What am I going to do? Where can I find a job that pays this good?"
After every election, ballot-box victims are left scattered across Capital Hill. But this year is different. There are more causalities than usual and fewer places for them to go.
Owen Donley, a stocky, deep-voiced man, has spent 15 years working for Sen. Gorge McGovern, (D-S.D.) and expected to spend the next 15 working as McGovern's agriculture aide. But McGovern, like Fisher, was ousted in Tuesday's election.
"We're all too shocked right now to know what we are going to do," Donley says, sitting near a poster that quotes McGovern as saying, "We may not be able to change the past, but we can help to shape the future."
All is not lost, says Donley. "I'll call friends," he says. "I've made good connections."
Out-of-work staffers such as Donley with years of experience traditionally have not had much trouble getting jobs. If they wanted to stay on the hill, friendly senators helped. If not, there were lobbying jobs, trade associations or consulting firms always on the lookout for staffers with contacts who know how the system works.
The problem this year, Donley and other veterans say, is two-fold: The Democratic liberal giants tumbled, and the Republicans gained control of all the Senate committees.
"It's like a bad joke that backfired," a Senate Rules Committee staff member explained. "In 1977, [Senate Majority Leader Robert] Byrd pushed a rule change through that created a two-to-one ratio on all the committees. Now, it's the Republicans who get the two and the Democrats who get one."
"There just aren't enough liberal senators left to help find us jobs, and there aren't going to be any big openings on any committees now, either," a veteran staffer for ousted Sen. BIRCH bayh (D-Ind.) explained.
"I can't imagine the Moral Majority is going to want me," another staffer says. "I'm just not their type."
The mood at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been under the control of Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), was especially bitter yesterday. cThe Democrats had controlled 107 staff jobs there while the Republicans had 51. The new chairman, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), told employes yesterday that they would receive the same treatment that Kennedy gave staffers when he took the reins and fired everyone.
"Losing our jobs is bad enough," one committee aide said. "But what really hurts is losing our programs. It's like we were running in one direction with a football and suddenly someone stole it and is going the opposite way and there's not a damn thing we can do now but watch."
Defeated members of Congress and their employes are not the only victims of the election. Capital patronage jobs are also in limbo.
"I just don't know what will happen," a secretary to Sergeant at Arms F. Nordy Hoffmann said yesterday. Hoffman, who is hired by the Senate, probably will be replaced and every one from his top aides to college students who operate Senate elevators are wondering what will happen to their jobs.
Not quite everyone whose boss lost, however, is worried. "I don't think anyone here is really sweating too much," Alan Nicholson, a press aide to Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), said. "We have a pretty good reputation, and I think we'll be able to move easily into the Republican administration." aEven thoughJavits was considered a liberal by many Republicans in President-elect Ronald Reagan's camp, Nicolson doesn't believe the staff will have problems. "Any Republicans with experience will be welcomed," he predicted.
"It's funny what kind of tricks your mind plays when you lose your job," says Williams in Fisher's office. "I put my fingers on the tips of my daughter's shoes today to see if they could last until December. I told her I lost my job and she offered to get one to help out.
"It really shakes you up," says Williams, who has worked on the Hill for 11 years. "I'm the type of person who's never been fired or never had to look for a job. People offered me jobs.
"I'm getting off the Hill," she continues. "I've had enough."