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Race for the Golden Gavel

Two freshman senators are locked in a tight race over who will be class geek.

Both Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) want to be the very first among their class of nine senators to win the Golden Gavel Award, which was created in the 1960s as an incentive to get wide-eyed new senators to learn the rules and procedures of the snootier chamber. The award goes to any senator who has presided over the Senate for 100 hours in any given year.

Klobuchar is winning so far, by a mere 20 minutes. The tally at press time: Klobuchar, 36 hours and 43 minutes; Brown, 36 hours and 23 minutes.

One of the honors (or curses) of being a first-term senator is the responsibility of presiding, getting to be that "Mr. President" or "Madame President" who sits in the big chair, enforces the rules and generally prevents the place from devolving into anarchy. A heckuva a job on any given day, in case you haven't watched C-SPAN lately.

And both Brown, a House member before getting elected to the Senate, and Klobuchar, a former county prosecutor, are dead set on being the first to get a Golden Gavel Award this year. It seems they'll stop at nothing to win.

Brown and Klobuchar, who could just as easily be locked in a contest for Mr. and Ms. Congeniality or Best All Around, have been volunteering to fill in for other freshman senators wherever they can, taking last-minute and late-night shifts in addition to their regular presiding gigs. (Note to Klobuchar fans: she presides every Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m.)

Brown presided on two different occasions on Wednesday, his discernable raspy voice getting drier and huskier as the day wore on. After leaving the floor for shift No. 1, he told us there's only one thing he wants more than to wield his very own Golden Gavel.

"Just the honor of getting there before Amy Klobuchar," the impish Brown deadpanned.

Their constituents have noticed the inordinate amount of face time the senators are getting on C-SPAN. Klobuchar has unwittingly developed a fan club of her reality TV stardom back home in Minnesota.

"My goal in life was never to be the Queen of C-SPAN but I seem to have quite a following," she joked.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 11, 2007; 5:52 PM ET
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