Bringing Representation Home: State Legislators among Their Constituencies

By Michael A. Smith | Go to book overview

4

In-District Advocates

Advocates place issues on the agenda instead of waiting for them to bubble up. In E. E. Schattschneider's words, they “socialize the conflict.” 1. Advocates see themselves as community leaders. They do not wait for issues to come to them. They work aggressively to organize media appearances, forums, and other events that draw attention to their communities. While some of my other subjects discounted the value of town-hall meetings, I watched Advocates 2 and 3 draw hundreds of people to their town halls to discuss “hot” local issues (highways and violence, respectively). Further, those constituents were joined by local television and newspaper reporters.

The advocates described in this chapter all harbored progressive political ambitions. Advocate 1 suggested to me that he might run for either state senate or Congress, depending on upcoming redistricting. He was hoping for a new senate district to be drawn after the census, one that would be more Democrat-friendly. Advocate 2 had already announced his candidacy in his community's state senate district. Advocate 3 was planning to run for state senate when the incumbent retired, and Advocate 4 was considering a candidacy for state insurance commissioner. These advocates' seeking of publicity was an approach not only to reelection but also to building up name recognition throughout a larger area. State representatives must often cross district boundaries to serve school districts, cities, or towns, each of which may be only partially within their district. Thus, the in-district advocate's work builds name recognition in adjoining areas. This can help enormously in a state senate campaign or a run for some other higher office.

____________________
1.
Schattschneider, Semi-Sovereign People, 7.

-56-

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