Driving from Michigan in his Ford F-150 pickup truck, David Curson arrived in Washington a little over a week ago. He set up an office on Nov. 11, was sworn in as a congressman on Tuesday, and by Friday had logged his first votes and given his first floor speech — one that stretched a bit past the one minute he’d been allotted.
The 64-year-old Democrat has no time to waste. In six weeks, he’ll be gone.
In Congress’s packed lame-duck session, Curson is a curiosity.
He was one of four members of the House sworn in to fill partial terms, but he is the only one who didn’t win a full, two-year term to go with the temporary gig. In January, he will drive his truck home and be replaced by Republican Kerry Bentivolio, whom Curson beat out for the partial term.
Curson did not run for a full term, opting to run in the special election only after other Democrats took a pass.
The seat was left vacant when Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a Republican, quit Congress this summer after he failed to qualify for the ballot because of questions about petition signatures.
Curson, a burly, bearded ex-Marine and United Auto Workers union representative, says he didn’t realize for sure that he had won until midafternoon the day after the election.
“It kind of stunned everybody, but immediately the phone just came off the hook,” he said. Party leaders called offering “all the help they could to get me off the ground and running.”
Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) have lent Curson aides to help him on his brief learning curve. In just days, he assembled a nearly full staff, including a chief of staff and communications director.
One aide, Curson says, is “guiding me around” to ensure he doesn’t get lost in the labyrinth of hallways in the Capitol, gets to votes on time and generally knows where he should be.
Curson, who worked on the federal auto bailout on the UAW’s behalf, said he knows he’s arrived in Washington at an important time. He’s keen to play whatever role he can as Congress seeks to navigate the fiscal cliff and a slew of other thorny, year-end issues.
“A lot of different issues that have been lying stagnant are going to come into play,” he said, adding that he’ll be pushing for compromise.
“I expected to be treated as the naive guy who doesn’t know how all this works, you know. I’ve never held a public office before,” he said, noting that he got to stand on the floor with one of his political heroes, Dingell. “But that’s not how it’s been. I’m truly impressed by the forum.”
Impressed enough to consider a run for a full term?
“At this point, no,” he said, but he added: “I might catch the bug.”