Republican Anthony Gonzalez is sworn in as Ohio’s newest congressman

January 4, 2019 GMT

Republican Anthony Gonzalez is sworn in as Ohio’s newest congressman

WASHINGTON, D. C. - Ohio’s newest member of Congress started his first day on the job with a clean slate and an empty office.

After spending the wee hours of Thursday morning in a hospital emergency room with his eight-month-old son, GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez reported to his cramped official suite in the Longworth House Office Building, where he greeted well-wishers with coffee and muffins without the company of his exhausted wife and baby. He said the baby would be fine, but needed sleep to recover from his digestive misadventure.

The Rocky River Republican’s office walls were bare. His desk held only a few items of newly-issued congressional paperwork. The only decoration in the suite was a bobblehead of Gonzalez from his days as an Indianapolis Colts wide receiver.

A bobblehead of U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez from his days as a member of the Indianapolis Colts football team  Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com

But many members of Gonzalez’ family were there, as were some of his political supporters from Ohio. A line of guests eager to meet him and his staff snaked into the hallway.

“We were with him through the whole campaign, and we are here to support him now,” said Tim Zvoncheck of Strongsville, who is commander of VFW Post 3345. “I was very happy to see someone like Anthony get elected.”

Although Gonzalez first rose to prominence an Ohio State and NFL football player, he says future visitors probably won’t find much gridiron memorabilia in his office, save for his old Buckeyes football helmet which he plans to let guest try on.

“I want this office to be a museum to the district, not me,” said Gonzalez, who intends to fill its shelves with keepsakes from local businesses and constituents.

Gonzalez said he’d only been to Washington, D.C. three or four times before he ran for Congress. After leaving professional football and getting an MBA degree from Stanford, he decided to pursue his longtime interest in politics.

Republican Whip Steve Scalise was among those who stopped by Gonzalez’ office on his first day in Congress.  Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com

He set his sights on Congress after a conversation where former Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel advised him to go where he felt he could be the most useful. Given its dysfunction, he thought Congress would be that place. He sought the safely Republican seat that former Rep. Jim Renacci vacated to run for U.S. Senate, and won it by defeating Democrat Susan Moran Palmer last November.

Gonzalez says he plans to open district offices in Strongsville and Canton, and develop a top-notch service operation to help constituents navigate Washington’s bureaucracy. He also intends to spend his first 90 days in office figuring out how Congress operates.

Although he hasn’t yet got any committee assignments, he’d like to serve on the House Financial Services Committee, because its area of jurisdiction is important to his district and will play to his skill set as an MBA.

He says his legislative priorities will include making health care more affordable, reducing prescription drug prices, and reviewing the nation’s trade deals. He says he supports the border wall that President Donald Trump wants to build as well as the $5 billion in funds that Trump seeks, and that he’ll vote against a Democratic plan that would provide less money.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez examines his new desk.  Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com

“This is a perfect opportunity to show the American people how we are willing to negotiate,” said Gonazlez, a descendent of Cuban immigrants who says he supports legal immigration.

Gonzalez says he’s already met with most other members of Congress from Ohio, and said he’s particularly eager to work with Columbus Democrat Joyce Beatty, whom he met at a football game between Ohio State and Michigan.

“We have a great delegation,” he said. “It’s all about working for Ohio and doing what’s right for the state.”

Ryan Stenger, a former chief-staffer to Rep. Bob Gibbs who stopped by to wish Gonzalez well, called him “a breath of fresh air” and predicted his lack of prior elective experience will be an asset.

“It is easier to work with everyone on both sides when you haven’t been in politics before,” said Stenger. “He will be willing to work with everyone to get things done.”

The sign outside U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’ new office  Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com