Monday, March 10, 2014

Influence your elected officials, 101

Your mayor, governor, state senator, US senator, all the way up and down the line you could be guiding them, or at least applying pressure so they know they have some out there watching them.  Sure, I know, we all write snarky nasty grams, leave messages with the polite phone answering lady, you voice your opinion, your mostly wasting your time.   These guys are so busy and under pressure from committees, lobbyist, whips, they don't take your call, read your emails or look at the note the phone lady scrawled.     But, there is a way to get through.  I have started getting into the state house working most on clean energy.  It doesn't take a suit or a degree, but try to do as much of the following as possible.

1)  One issue at a time, OK maybe two but that's it.
2)  Staff.  Ask who is the staff member that handles the issue.  See, call, or write that staff member, some of these offices have lots of staff and some handle only certain items, and they are more likely to carry your concern to the elected one than the phone lady.  If you get answering machine, stick your name and number on it and a pleasant voice your subject and a fact in a couple of lines that's all.  You probably won't hear back, but a hum-drum or snotty voice will guarantee it.
3) Be prepared to refer to the bill by number if the item is already drawn up or in committee.  I made this mistake in meeting with state reps, they are sometimes more likely to know the issue by the bill number than the public/press label for it.
4) Homework, try to find out their position, build if you can on areas of agreement if there are some, and be specific what action you want taken.  Opinions don't count for much at this level, know some facts to use in support of your request.
5) Find out on line or from the phone lady what days people are most available, committee meetings and legislative sessions are often on certain days.
6) Unless your a mega-contributor you will be lucky to have 5 minutes with anyone.  Polite quick intro and get to saying what you came to say. Give your position, ask what for their's, use facts and go easy on opinions.  If they indicate they will not do your bidding find out the primary reason, try to counter it, ask what would change their minds.
7) Thank them, (if it didn't go your way) tell them you are going try harder than ever now with others to help change his mind.
8) Tenaciousness, get back to them in the next few days, sooner if the bill is moving in committee or on the floor.  Email, write, call, give your strongest facts over and over, more facts and reasons if you can find them.
9) Take partial or incremental victories, let things that don't matter go. (I found one senator who kept putting up false info as his reason he would not vote as I wanted him to, finally through facts he agreed I was right but then launched that the real problem was Obama's actions.  I repeated back to him that we now had agreement on the xyz of my argument, I ignored the Obama comment because this was a state bill with nothing to do with federal laws or Obama whether it was voted up or down, discussion of that could only offend him and waste time.
10) Tell someone what you did and learned, ask them for help.  Human nature is amazing, most people want to help, make it easy for them, give them the phone number or email, hell, write the letter for them, tell them what you would say if you were calling the first time.
11) 3 is a crowd.  In small population states 3 people calling or visiting a state house rep or a mayor on the same issue is a lot of pressure, in larger states 50 is a lot.  "Oh I want to be in that number, when the saint's go marching in".


  1. Ron "Sarge" Axley should have a letter to the editor about the GOP not backing the vets in tomorrow's Courior - that is picked up by all Gannett papers.
    We haven't heard a word from this furniture maker running against Buschon.
    I am visiting the county Democrats later this week - We have not heard a word from the guy running against Buschon. Maybe they can't start their campaign until after Labor Day?
    Darrel, I will work for the man - Gerrymandering be damned! We will take the House back ONE district at a time - and I am going to do my best to see that Indiana/8 goes Blue.


    1. I hope it prints. Campaigns can start any time, probably they just don't have enough people stuffing envelopes and talking him up, and maybe he needs a few dollars, most dems do.


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