Bringing Representation Home: State Legislators among Their Constituencies

By Michael A. Smith | Go to book overview

6

Ombudspersons

Ombudspersons are listeners. Like advocates, they focus on issues that raise concerns in the district. Yet the two groups take different approaches. While advocates aggressively socialize the conflict, ombudspersons generally wait until someone else has put an issue on the agenda. Responsiveness is their theme. They let issues bubble up, but stay involved in resolving controversy. For example, while Advocate 1 said he liked to “thump my chest” to bring attention to the district, Ombuds 3 and 4 presented themselves as levelheaded peacemakers who could settle controversies back home. Ombuds 1 worked closely with local leaders in his district, while Ombuds 2 attended every meeting he possibly could when he was at home. Ombuds 3 responded quickly when a state university proposed to acquire and destroy several of her constituents' homes. Yet she was not the one that raised the issue. Instead, it was neighborhood activists who organized the protests and meetings. Ombuds 3 then responded, by attending the meetings and working to negotiate a compromise between university administrators and neighborhood activists. Likewise, Ombuds 4 did not take credit—did not want credit—for starting the debate in his district about indoor hog farms. Rather, he presented himself as an ombudsman who could respond to this problem. It was placed on the agenda by others.

The metropolitan-area ombudspersons—Ombuds 1, 2, and 3— all represented districts with above-average incomes, high education levels, and high voter turnout. They each told me that their constituents back home were active and involved, and that this made their job easier. Their constituents relayed concerns and issues to their elected officials, instead of waiting for the officials to take the lead. Thus the ombudsperson approach seemed to fit these districts. In

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Bringing Representation Home: State Legislators among Their Constituencies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Bringing Representation Home - State Legislators Among Their Constituencies *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Studying Representation 1
  • 2 - Constructing Roles from the Representatives' Perspectives Literature and Methods 8
  • 3 - Burkeans 23
  • 4 - In-District Advocates 56
  • 5 - Advocates Beyond the District 103
  • 6 - Ombudspersons 128
  • 7 - Districts, Ambitions, and Strategies in a Term-Limited Era 175
  • Afterword 200
  • Appendix 203
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 221
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