A New Way to Connect – telephone town hall

A New Way to Connect? telephone town hall

In 2010, with hard work, the Republican organization in the House and Senate tied the numbers in the Oregon State House of Representatives and, by just under 300 votes, would have tied the numbers in the Oregon Senate.  A number of new Republican Freshman became new Representatives in a carefully balanced House. 
In 2012, with little warning, four Freshman House members lost there positions on an election day that surprised almost everyone.  One of the House members had known that redistricting 
had made his job of re-election more challenging but none thought that all four would lose.  What happened?  How did polling fail to identify this potential?  And how did the Democrat 
machine produce the defeat of four sitting legislators?
Once elected, most elected officials have such significant advantages in name recognition,   money coming to them, and experience, that they are hard to unseat.  In fact, this website, 
speaking of the year 2006: http://www.followthemoney.org/press/ReportView.phtml?r=361&ext=5&PHPSESSID=fafa890f23ce3cfae5a4b7ff171fb7de states the following, "More than 5,400 candidates 
who held office in the previous cycle ran for state legislative office, with more than 5,000 — or 92 percent — emerging victorious. Ninety-eight percent of incumbent legislators ran for re-election to the same seat they held."
Why do incumbents normally continue with their political "careers?"  Much has to do with the environment that got them elected in the first place.  There are tendencies about those 
district’s voters that generally allowed them to win and will continue to support their      future victories.  In addition, the money that tends to come their way helps them get their 
name out.  Along with this is the opportunity to reach and communicate with their            constituents while serving in their positions. 

On the national level, and in some states, the use of mailing opportunities can help sitting legislators put their name in front of the voters a number of times during their tenure.  On the national level this is called the "franking" right.  Some state legislatures have 
mailings in their budgets.  Some don't.  In the state of Oregon, the budget for this type of communication is very low and most don't try to do any mailings.  What's interesting here is that even at the national level, where they have the "franking" capability, these national   level legislators have understood that in today's world you simply must use every available  method and opportunity to communicate to your constituents.  Therefore, most of those in     Congress have latched on to one of the newest outreach capabilities, the telephone town hall.Even with "franking", the Congress uses it.  However, there is really only one state legislature in the nation that has made a similar discovery.  Washington State, having generally stopped the use of physical mailings, has replaced this form of outreach with telephone outreach,hosting large telephone meetings (along with their physical town halls, and probably email). Lisa Fenton, of Washington State, the current Chief of Staff of the Republican Caucus was    involved in the discovery and implementation of the legislative town hall program using the  telephone while serving as Communications Director.  In a brief interview she had the following to say in response to this question: "Why did they (the legislature) move into using telephone townhalls?" Answer: "At a time when  legislative postage and production budgets are being cut rather drastically this was, and is, considered a more cost effective method to communicate to larger numbers of voters with less money."  Question: "What advantages have been realized over the normal means of communicating with constituents?  Answer: "Cost savings.  Members can 'touch' larger number of Constituents (even if someone doesn't participate a message has been received regarding the event), dramatically higher level of constituent participationin telephone town halls as compared to those who attend town hall meetings in person, much   more convenient for member and constituent,  better use of time for member, and an ability tomanage flow of the event (ie: minimizes the challenge of one person or advocacy group 
hijacking the forum on one issue.)"  With over 90 percent participation in the biennium, thisprogram has proven very effective. 

So back to the question of how four freshmen legislators fell?  There are many factors for further discussion, but one answer could be that these legislators did not use every available method to communicate with their constituents?  They didn't provide enough evidence to the voter that they were worthy of re-election?  Could the use of telephone town halls have provided more and better evidence about why they deserved the voter’s  vote in order to keep them in office?
Call Action Solutions today to get more information on a telephone town hall,  your opportunity to tell your constituents you are working hard for them and need their vote!  Call 503-914-1082 or email jeff@actionsolutions.net.
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