Climbing The Hill


By Christine Champagne

It's hardly politics as usual on The Hill. The six-part Sundance Channel documentary series, which airs this month, provides fly-on-the-wall access to the hectic Capitol Hill office of Democratic Florida congressman Robert Wexler. An amalgamation of The Real World and The West Wing, the focus is on Wexler's young staffers, a decidedly passionate political posse: When they aren't arguing over how Wexler should handle sensitive topics such as the war in Iraq, they struggle with personal issues like whether it's OK to date a Republican. The leader of this entertainingly dysfunctional family is 35-year-old gay chief of staff Eric Johnson. A political prodigy who ran for public office in Florida at the tender age of 18 (and lost), Johnson was surprisingly'considering his current gig and liberal views'a Republican in his youth. Will Johnson ever live down his GOP past among his colleagues? 'No, and I shouldn't,' says the now-die-hard Democrat with a laugh. Johnson, who came out to Wexler a few years ago, says of his boss, 'He couldn't be more supportive. He's really gone out of his way to be active on gay issues like domestic partnerships and immigration [since I came out to him] whereas these issues didn't affect him personally before.'