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In office lottery, Kildee plays 'dirty'

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township

Washington — U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee played the lottery with a baggie of dirt from the old Detroit Tigers Stadium, and it paid off.

Not the real lottery, but Kildee entered the lottery for congressional office space on Friday and drew the No. 2 pick out of the 55 House members in his class.

The Flint Township Democrat got his top choice of office and credited the Tigers' dirt for a bit of good luck. 

Every two years, members of Congress draw numbered chips from a box. Those with with the lowest numbers get first pick of the best available office space on Capitol Hill. 

Kildee got the dirt from a former chief of staff, Andy Leavitt, who was at the former stadium the day it closed and saved a couple handfuls of dirt from the infield. 

The former Major League Baseball stadium — where the Tigers played from 1912-99 — was razed in 2009 in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. 

Leavitt, whom Kildee described as a "very superstitious guy," had urged his boss to take a baggie of the dirt with him when he went to the office lottery in 2014.

Per tradition, members often yield talismans, perform cartwheels or say prayers for luck in hopes of picking a low number. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, did a little dance on Friday, Kildee said. 

"I'm not much into those sorts of performances, but I figured a little good karma from my favorite baseball team couldn't hurt," Kildee said. 

That year, Kildee also drew the No. 2 pick. The next office lottery, he didn't bring the dirt and got a lousy number, 55, he said. 

"I don't believe in superstition at all, strangely, but I believe in tradition. Tiger Stadium to me represents tradition," Kildee said.

"But, you know, why mess with a good thing? It worked once. Maybe it will work again."  

Kildee admiringly showed off his lucky dirt to House colleagues after his pick on Friday, having a good laugh.

He even offered a pinch of dirt to New York Rep. Grace Meng — an alumna of the University of Michigan — "and she got pretty good number out of it, 12 or 18," he said. 

Kildee has been a Tigers fan since he was a kid and was 10 years old when the team won the World Series in 1968. 

The congressman, who succeeded his uncle Dale Kildee in Congress in 2013, was elected this month to his fourth term in the U.S. House. 

He and his staff will soon move into a newly renovated space just off the rotunda near one of the entrances to the Cannon House Office Building.

That will make it convenient to visiting constituents and to Kildee himself going and coming to House floor and committee meetings, he said.