Nationwide Issue? Start Local.
June 4, 2018
Kevin Lawlor, Vice President, Political Operations & Media Strategy
One of the most common mistakes an organization can make is to relax their advocacy efforts simply because summer has arrived, and the Congress has gone on recess. Every summer, but particularly one that leads into a midterm election, advocacy programs benefit from a little re-tooling and even ramping up as legislators lobby their constituents to send them back to D.C, or their state house for another term.
With any recess comes: a) lawmakers heading back to their states and districts and getting more face time with the constituents who put them into office in the first place; and b) political newcomers who are hyper-focused on carving out policy positions that make them stand out against an incumbent or a crowded field of hopefuls.
Now is the time to shift or expand your efforts to focus on the local level and make the most impact to achieve your goals. In-state activity during the recess will play an important role in achieving your objectives. Let’s look at some of the myths associated with thinking local:
Myth #1: “Legislators are more accessible in D.C. Getting a meeting with them anywhere else will be impossible.”
Despite what it may seem, legislators outside of the beltway can actually translate to more accessibility, especially from an advocacy perspective. Legislators are constantly attending meetings and hearing about the interests of groups while they are in D.C. It’s part of the standard schedule for lawmakers. However, it’s when they are back in their local districts and home states that lawmakers feel they are hearing from those who matter most: their major donors, local community and business leaders, and regular voters. Coordinated on-the-ground advocacy means lawmakers get face time with critical influential voices whose votes they depend on and whose opinions on critical issues could mean the success (or failure) of their political careers.
Myth #2: “But it’s an election year, we don’t even know who will be heading back to Washington next year – why should I invest in this now?”
Regardless of who should land in the seat next year—on either side of the aisle—getting your issues and objectives out in front of the influentials, community-based organizers, and local media outlets offers benefits for your cause. Let’s be honest, lawmakers want to get re-elected and new candidates want to get elected. To do that, they need votes from their local constituents, which means they must listen and understand what matters most to their public. Using on-the-ground advocacy tactics, you can ensure your issue is gaining traction at the local level, among the very influencers and constituents who will be casting ballots come November. When you invest in “influencing the influencer,” you gain critical support from key constituencies on their home turf, and that means you are more likely to have open ears for your issue priorities. Once the votes are in, the elected won’t easily forget the issues that matter to those who put them in office.
Myth #3: “We already invest in lobbyists in D.C. to meet with lawmakers, why should I invest in more?”
Lobbyists’ time with lawmakers is precious, giving them no time to waste in trying to get lawmakers on your side. Investing in supplementary advocacy resources, therefore, acts complementary and amplifies your existing efforts to build a well-rounded campaign. With a coordinated media campaign and local influencer mobilization, you can ensure legislators have already heard about your issue throughout the recess, so that when they return to D.C., lobbyists won’t have to split their time acting as both educators and persuaders in their meetings with lawmakers. Local advocacy during recesses pays larger dividends for your lobbying efforts by ensuring policymakers are already informed about your issue prior to meetings with lobbyists, allowing lobbyists to drive home their key points and move lawmakers to support your position.
DDC’s Political Operations and Media Strategy team can help your organization craft a summer recess plan based on in-state intelligence, led by people on the ground, and designed to put your issue front and center before the mid-term elections.
Interested in learning more about how DDC can help you locally? With extensions of DDC in every state, we have the reach and support to tackle any of your on-the-ground efforts. To find out more, feel free to contact us today.