Mr. Orton went to Washington Tuesday.
It marked the first trip to Capitol Hill for Bill Orton - the conservative-cum-boy-wonder Democrat from Utah's 3rd Congressional District - since his stunning defeat of Karl Snow Nov. 6.Interestingly, the congressman-elect's reasons for the visit were as simple as they were difficult: try to forge links with fellow conservatives (many of whom are Republicans) and fellow Democrats (many of whom are liberals).
Orton also said he regrets answering a hypothetical question from a reporter last week that led to widespread speculation that he might switch parties.
"If there's one thing I've learned in a week of politics, it's not to answer hypothetical questions," Orton said.
That's because when he was asked if he would switch parties if he found he could not be effective as a conservative in the Democratic Party, he said yes. Even later as he tried to squelch the rumor, he did not slam the door on such a possibility someday.
But he said Tuesday that party switching is "something I'm not even considering. Let's face it. Democrats control Congress. They control all the committees . . .. That makes me more effective as a Democrat. That's one of the reasons I told people to vote for me as a Democrat."
He also joked that one reason the rumor continues to circulate is it is spread by "Republicans (who) hate to lose."
Still, in an hour-plus meeting with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Orton tried during an opening photo opportunity to stress how similar they are despite their differing parties.
"I have a cousin on your staff (Nancy Lloyd)," Orton told Hatch. "We have a lot in common. I am the same age as when you were first elected."
Orton added that they both were political unknowns and lawyers when they were elected, and are both conservatives. Hatch added, "I used to be a Democrat, too. I was a Democrat all the years I was at BYU. Then I learned how to read," he joked.
Orton also told Hatch that they are close philosophically. And while they may differ sometimes on methods to implement philosophy, their goals will often be the same.
Hatch added to Orton, "A lot of people thought the 3rd District was the most Republican in the nation. It is the most conservative in the nation, and that's why you won."
They privately discussed issues ranging from how to pass legislation needed to complete the Central Utah Project to how to change education funding formulas to benefit Utah and what committee assignments Orton should seek.
Orton also sought meetings with other people whose parties and ideologies span the political spectrum: Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah; House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash.; House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.; and a fellow conservative Democrat from the West, Rep. Richard Stallings, D-Idaho.
About Stallings, Orton said, "Our parents live across the street from each other in North Ogden. I expect to get along very well with him."
Orton was also trying to lobby hard for a key committee assignment and said he had high hopes that Democrats would help him obtain one to solidify his seat in his 3-1 Republican district.
While Orton, a tax lawyer, prefers a seat on the tax-law-writing Ways and Means Committee, he said, "There's only one Democratic seat open, and it's already been promised to several people with more seniority than me."
He is also looking at possibly a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where retiring Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, served. "There's three or four seats open on it, and it is a good seat for the 3rd District." But it is also coveted by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah.
Orton is also considering the Labor and Education Committee. "It's not as flamboyant, but it deals with issues that are meaningful to Utah."
He also met on Monday with the clerk of the House to pick up and file papers necessary to take office. "He said I was the first member of the 102nd Congress to meet with him," Orton said. He also planned to meet with Nielson's staff to talk about transition.
Orton also found time to speak at a tax seminar in Washington and to start looking for an apartment on Capitol Hill. He flew late Tuesday to Florida to give more tax seminars and has others scheduled in New York later this week.
He planned to return to Washington late Friday to spend the weekend apartment hunting.