Freshman Rep. Karen Handel, 55, a Georgia Republican, talks about her friendship with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, her intense race for the House and her love of football.
Q: What has surprised you so far about Congress?
A: I do think that sometimes there’s a — I’ll call it the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde syndrome up here. You can be sitting there talking with someone, and all of a sudden when they press talk on the dais, they’re a totally different person. I think it’s important to try to make sure for all of us, as we work with one another, to be mindful of when people are “politically on” and separate that from who we are as individuals.
Q: What’s something you would change about your campaign?
A: Oh my gosh, there’s so much on that campaign. It was extraordinarily intense, extraordinarily intense. Hopefully the next one won’t be as intense. But I don’t own the seat, and so anyone, whether they would be primary opposition for me or general opposition from a Democrat, that’s the way the process works. So anyone who has a fire in the belly, who thinks that they have something to offer to the people, to the district, then I welcome them in the race.
Q: You worked for now-Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Are you still in touch?
A: I was deputy chief of staff for Governor Perdue, and it was a great opportunity. Yes, of course, we’ve been in touch. He’s a good friend and someone I would consider a mentor. And his [current] chief of staff, Heidi Green, is a very, very close friend. We saw them just the other night at the White House Christmas party, he and [his wife] Ms. Mary were there.
Q: What’s something about you that your colleagues might not know?
A: I am a rabid football fan. I have my own fantasy team. I do NFL more than I do college. My husband’s the college football guy. I really wanted to be the first female NFL football player when I grew up, but today, if I could have any other job, I would want to be NFL commissioner.
Q: How are you adjusting to the congressional schedule?
A: Obviously, I’m missing my husband and my puppies (two Cavalier King Charles spaniels) and friends. But this is part of the job, and the hardest part is being gone for two full weeks. I usually go home every weekend. This has been a time period I had things I had to do in New York, so I didn’t go home, and that’s difficult. Four or five days isn’t so bad, but two full weeks is a long time, a long time without my husband and without my own pillow.
Last book read: “Compelling People.”
Last movie seen: The last one we saw in the movie theater was “Star Wars” last Christmas.
Favorite song of all time: That is really hard. I love music. “Mack the Knife,” “Uptown Funk,” anything Stylistics. I love country music. Luke Bryan rocks.
I will confess, I love Donny Osmond. Donny Osmond called me, it was one of the greatest moments ever. He called when Mitt Romney was running for president because word got around that I was a big Donny Osmond fan. So he called to ask me about the race.
Role model: Rae Evans. I worked for her as a young staffer at Hallmark Cards in their Washington office.
Closest to in Congress: Lynn Jenkins is my mentor. Jackie Walorski, Mimi Walters, John Rutherford, Doug Collins, Austin Scott and Tom Graves. I think the world of Patrick McHenry. He’s had a really, really hard job to be able to step in when Whip [Steve] Scalise was shot and in the hospital.