WASHINGTON — How many times does a lawmaker have to take off his shirt before he finally gets some respect? Sen. Jeff Flake spent a dozen years in Congress, but it's only now - after his ascension to the U.S. Senate and a couple of very photogenic bare-chested visits to a deserted island - that he's made the Hill's "50 Most Beautiful" list.
So, why didn't the Arizona Republican make the cut earlier?
"It's a simple matter of that he'd never been nominated," said Emily Goodin, features editor for the congressional newspaper. "I went back and checked because I said, 'Oh, he had to have been on the list.' "
But no! Flake's name was never submitted for consideration until this year, when he rocketed to the No. 1 spot with his youthful demeanor (at 50, "doesn't look anywhere close to that age") and "chiseled physique." Translation: Looks darn good without his shirt.
"I will say it was a very impressive picture," said Goodin. "And I'm sure it did not hurt his chances."
This year, the Hill staff sifted through more than 500 nominees to find its top 50 - a task made easier by opening the annual list to executive-branch players as well. The staff voted for the finalists.
At No. 2: Kirby Bumpus, a fresh-faced Health and Human Services staffer and daughter of CBS' Gayle King. At No. 3, Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and nutrition policy adviser, the guy to whom the cameras gravitate at those Michelle Obama garden photo-ops. (If he looks jaded, well, he already made People magazine's "Most Beautiful" list.) Identical twins Sara and Chellie Zou - Purdue baton-twirlers turned C-SPAN assistants - took Nos. 4 and 5. Freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, came in at No. 6.
Other lawmakers include Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Reps. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas - but as usual, the list is dominated by obscure staffers in their 20s, who have a well-toned leg up thanks to the Hill's strict no-repeat rule, which gives a boost to newcomers.
Of course, critics claim the policy has also reduced the pool to the merely Most Okay Looking. "Actually, it doesn't," said Goodin. "The nice thing about Congress is that you get a new influx of people every two years."
Or you finally notice the buff guy from the Grand Canyon State. Flake did not return our call for comment.