Her bags are packed. She's found an apartment on craigslist and the utilities just got hooked up. And
On Tuesday, 20 years after she first hoped to move to
"I think it's going to sink in, maybe, on Thursday," Frankel said last week. "It's going to be pretty awesome. I'm really excited, I have to say. You'd have to be pretty jaded not to be excited."
The new Democratic congresswoman is making her move to Washington on the strength of a 55 percent to 45 percent victory over Republican Adam Hasner in the 22nd Congressional District. Since Election Day, she's been on a whirlwind of orientations, including programs in Washington, D.C., and at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
She's packed her schedule with events at home – ranging from a session with mayors to a menorah lighting in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea – concentrating on the Broward part of the district, which Frankel, a former mayor of West Palm Beach, doesn't know as well as her Palm Beach County base. "A lot of it is listening," she said. "I'm trying to get to know the district better and trying to get the folks in the district to know me."
The congresswoman-elect also met with the former deputy foreign minister of Israel in Boca Raton and the Swedish ambassador in Fort Lauderdale.
And she's tackled a long list of personal chores that fell by the wayside during a campaign that began in March 2011: the doctor, the dentist – "you name it, I've been in for repair" – catching up on paperwork and even cleaning out a closet in her
She isn't taking a car to the capital, and doesn't intend to take up driving in snow and ice. Her apartment is precisely 0.6 miles from the Capitol, and now that she has the boots, she said, "I'm walking."
She'll be walking into a sharply divided House of Representatives, an institution where members of the minority party typically have little influence, and freshmen from the minority even less.
Having served as a Democrat in the Republican-controlled Florida House, where she rose to the post of her party's leader, "gives me a much more realistic expectation of what's doable," Frankel said.
That means a focus on constituent service for people who need help with things like Medicare, Social Security and veterans benefits, something that can make or break a member of Congress. "My concept of hitting the ground running and being an effective legislator is to focus on my district and having really good constituent work," she said.
A member of Congress is allowed to hire 18 staffers. Frankel is still hiring, but said she won't have that many people on the payroll.
In South Florida, she's hired a mix of veteran caseworkers and newcomers led by District Director Felicia Goldstein, who served in the same role for former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein. Her Washington staff is a mix of people with campaign and congressional experience including the chief of staff Jonathon Bray, who was her campaign manager, and Sarah Rothschild, who will handle communications and worked as Klein's deputy press secretary.
The main district office is on Military Trail in Boca Raton, in the geographic center of a district that takes in most of coastal Broward and Palm Beach counties. New congressional boundaries that take effect Thursday put the office of U.S. Rep.
Afer being sworn in, Frankel will immediately confront some of the nation's thorniest issues. On the so-called "
In the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn. school massacre, Frankel supports banning the sale of assault weapons, looking at banning sale of magazines that allow shooters to fire large numbers of bullets and changing the law that exempts people who purchase weapons at gun shows from background checks.
"Now, what do I think is realistic? I think it's going to require a huge push by the public to get the Congress to do anything," she said. "I do feel strongly that we should do something. Even though there is not a magic wand to stop every crazy person."
Her primary committee assignment is Transportation and Infrastructure, which Frankel said was her first choice because airports, ports and roads are vital to improving the economy. The panel also oversees
As Frankel begins her two-year term, she's like most every other representative and already thinking about the 2014 election. After beating Hasner she took a short break from fundraising, but last week she began the effort for the next election, emailing supporters a request for contributions by midnight Tuesday, the cutoff for the next federal campaign reporting period. "They will use our totals as a measure of our preparation for next time," she wrote. A Washington, D.C., fundraiser is also in the works.
Even though Frankel will be spending less time in South Florida, she isn't yet ready to sell her home – which isn't in the 22nd District.
After she announced her candidacy for the congressional seat,
"My next move will be into the district, but I don't want to make that move before the [court case is resolved] and find myself having to move again," she said.
A member of Congress isn't required to live in the district.
Frankel is an artist when she's not politicking, painting in contemporary acrylics – "bright colors, nothing subtle" – and while serving in Tallahassee she painted at night after legislative sessions. She's shipped a few paintings to her Capitol Hill apartment, but isn't bringing any painting supplies with her, uncertain yet about whether she'll have much free time to unwind at the end of the day.
Read about Frankel's take on the fiscal cliff and dealing with gun violence at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics