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Jordan dives into new role as successor to Rep. Oxley

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    U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan examines documents during a break in meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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    Oxley

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    Rep. Jim Jordan was twice a national championship wrestler at the University of Wisconsin.

    University of Wis.

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U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan examines documents during a break in meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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WASHINGTON - This is how you find the offices of freshman Republican Congressman Jim Jordan:

Walk through the metal detector at the Cannon Building, wade across the hordes of visiting eighth graders, squeeze into an available elevator, exit on the fourth floor, wander through a maze of hallways for access to the fifth floor, open what appears to be a janitor's closet, turn left at the mop, climb the winding staircase, and find the door that displays the official seal of Ohio.

Don't worry. Mr. Jordan's staffers, quick to notice the sweat on your brow, will offer a glass of water, and later the congressman himself will show you a more direct route to his office.

When Republicans were taken to the mat last election and lost their majority, Mr. Jordan - who won two national wrestling championships in college - jumped up a weight class from the Ohio Senate. He succeeded Michael Oxley, the heavyweight who retired after 26 years in Congress with an office that featured a magisterial view of the Capitol dome.

"I like the job, the intensity," Mr. Jordan (R., Urbana) said. "You start in the morning and next thing you know it's 9 at night."

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Oxley

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Proximity and protocol mean a lot in Washington. Mr. Oxley wielded political and fund-rais-ing power as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, an authority Ohio's 4th Congressional District replaced with Mr. Jordan's hustle.

Mr. Jordan raced through hallways earlier this month, checking off an agenda card with a blue felt-tip pen at each stop. He spoke on the House floor about the Bluffton University baseball team's bus accident before ducking into a meeting to talk with Rep. Steve Chabot (R., Cincinnati).

Mr. Chabot, who serves on the Judiciary and Small Business committees with Mr. Jordan, explained in a later interview that such activity is foundational for an entire career.

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Rep. Jim Jordan was twice a national championship wrestler at the University of Wisconsin.

University of Wis. Enlarge

"When I came back in 1994, it was somewhat of a different situation because Republicans had just taken over the majority, so it's a bit more challenging coming in as a freshman in the minority," Mr. Chabot said. "The bottom line is that it's a time for building relationships with other members of Congress, demonstrating that you're really committed to your beliefs."

After his conversation with Mr. Chabot, Mr. Jordan attended hearings on whether the District of Columbia should elect its own congressmen. He sat in the bottom row on the far right side, his head blocked by television cameras.

Congressmen ask their questions by order of seniority, meaning that Mr. Jordan finally got a chance to voice his thoughts about the bill once he was outside the committee room and headed toward another meeting. "This bill is totally unconstitutional," he said. "If you're going to err, it's better to err on the side of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. They're pretty sharp guys."

It was 11:30 a.m. An entire afternoon awaited Mr. Jordan.

John Fortier, who researches congressional issues at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, put the morning in context. "To grow into a job as a young freshman means to take your committee work seriously because that is where you can develop some expertise," Mr. Fortier said.

A similar strategy paid off for Mr. Oxley in retirement. He recently became vice chairman of the Nasdaq stock exchange and joined the Washington offices of Baker Hostetler, an Ohio-based law firm that counsels almost half of America's 25 largest companies. Those clients are affected by the 2002 financial reporting regulations bearing Mr. Oxley's name, Sarbanes-Oxley. Mr. Oxley has since called the law overly burdensome.

Among Mr. Oxley's responsibilities at Baker Hostetler will be to "resolve or avert problems related to federal and/or state policy through legislative or administrative solutions," according to a statement by the firm.

Federal ethics laws order former congressmen to wait a year before lobbying the House or the Senate.

Mr. Jordan said Mr. Oxley did a "great job" in his Congressional career. Congressional colleagues also often refer to Mr. Jordan's former career - as a collegiate wrestler in the mid-1980s.

In January Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) introduced Mr. Jordan on the Judiciary Committee by saying: "Members of the committee should be grateful that when we sometimes spar with each other, it is verbally, not physically."

Mr. Jordan has yet to propose any legislation, but he has co-sponsored 31 bills thus far. They are monumental in scope (ending abortion); patriotic in ambition (commitment to victory in Iraq), and - in one instance - putrid by definition (manure should not be defined as "a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant").

As Mr. Jordan assembles a record during the next two years, Gary Frueh, chairman of the Allen County Democratic Party, envisions capturing a congressional district that has eluded Democrats since 1936. "He's in right field," Mr. Frueh said. "There is no left field for him, as far as I can see. How far out in right field he is will be the difference of whether he plays next season or not."

That may be one of the reasons why Mr. Jordan thinks so much about returning phone calls to constituents until 9 p.m., when he said most families have their bedtimes.

"It's funny how many times you get the response, 'Really? This is my congressman? Calling back?'•"

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.

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