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AP photographers paint definitive portrait of epic, historic vote for House speaker

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Some likened it to a Renaissance painting – and it certainly belongs in a museum. We’re talking, of course, about Andrew Harnik’s indelible images of a tussle in Congress as a historic House speaker vote threatened to stretch into another week.

As Republicans struggled through 14 fruitless rounds of voting against an internal faction of rebels to elect Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker, the longest such struggle in a century, nerves were fraying.

But AP’s photographers in the chamber remained cool as ever.

Normally, photographers’ access in the House chamber is heavily restricted by the speaker’s office – but with no speaker, the photo team was able to take full advantage of a House with no rules. Able to freely roam the chamber and capture up-close moments, the team shot more than 14,000 images for review and editing. Over the four days of voting, 1,500 images moved to AP’s audiences.

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Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., talks to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., after Gaetz voted “present” in the House chamber as the House meets for the fourth day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. – AP PHOTO/ALEX BRANDON

Alex Brandon captured an image of Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the last anti-McCarthy holdouts, talking tensely with McCarthy after the 14th vote. With most cameras trained on McCarthy, Harnik captured an unbelievable-if-it-weren’t-on-camera near-brawl, as Rep. Mike Rogers started to charge toward Gaetz – only to be pulled back by Rep. Richard Hudson.

Harnik was quick to alert all formats of the moment, meaning the images moved on the wire far ahead of the competition – and they were used by West Coast newspapers in their editions.

The photos also were the basis for a separate story by sleepless and dauntless reporter Mary Clare Jalonick. AP’s video team put together an edit that received nearly 180,000 views on YouTube.

Those key moments were complemented by the dramatic photos made by the rest of the team in the chamber that week.

One tight frame of the confrontation posted to AP’s Instagram garnered 18,121 likes – a tally much higher than the typical @apnews Instagram post.

On Harnik’s own Twitter, another frame rendered in black and white had notched more than 7 million views in less than week.

For work that will undoubtedly feed the historical record, AP’s photo team of Harnik, Brandon, J. Scott Applewhite, Julio Cortez, Carolyn Kaster, Matt Rourke and Susan Walsh earn Best of the Week – First Winner honors.

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