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First day on the job for S.C. Rep. Joe Cunningham

Joe Cunningham officially started his first day in Congress in Washington, D.C. (WCIV)

A new Congress convened on Capitol Hill Thursday, marking a historic day on several levels with the House majority now Democratic.

During November’s midterm election, Democrats gained 40 house seats, including Lowcountry newcomer Joe Cunningham’s first congressional district seat.

Cunningham is the first democrat to hold the seat in nearly 40 years, unseating longtime Republican Mark Sanford.

His surprising win is now a reality, as he wrapped up his first day as a U.S. Congressman.

While it wasn’t exactly a childhood dream, he said it’s been a tunnel vision goal over the last few years.

“I saw the (name) plaque out there from afar and it just started tingling in my body,” Cunningham said, describing the moment when he walked up to his new office with his wife and infant son. “It gives me butterflies.”

It was a day of many firsts for Cunningham, who is also a Charleston attorney.

Thursday marked his first day on the job and first day in his new office space on the fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building.

Other than the typical office furniture, his it was virtually empty, although the walls were slick with a fresh coat of beige paint. It won’t be empty for long, Cunningham said he plans to personalize the space, taking some creative liberties along the way.

“I want to bring in a lot of artwork from the Lowcountry,” he said. “I want people to feel at home when they walk in here.”

Thursday also marked his first vote alongside 434 other congressional lawmakers to name a house speaker.

Nancy Pelosi ultimately secured the spot, but Cunningham stayed true to his campaign promise and voted for Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois.

The move drummed up a response from his former campaign rival, Republican Katie Arrington of Summerville, who referred to the congressman on Twitter as #JoeCunningSham

“I don’t think much about it,” he shrugged off. “I’m focused on starting my job here, voting for people in the first district and first vote out of the gate was exactly what I promised people I would do.”

With a senior staff in place, including a legislative director and a communications director, Cunningham said he’s ready to represent and fight for Lowcountry issues.

He said the first bill he’ll introduce will bring back the ban on offshore drilling.

“We got some serious issues in our country right now, we got some serious issues facing people in the Lowcountry,” said Cunningham.

Before taking his oath of office, he also carried his 10-month-old son Boone onto the House floor for the first time.

Later that afternoon, while emptying his pockets, he pulled out an unused diaper, which he said is definitely not a first.

“Yeah, diapers, wet wipes, you know, baby food,” he laughed. “That’s just life.”

Cunningham said he’ll split his time between the Lowcountry and Washington, but states that West Ashley will always be home.

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