Friday, March 22, 2013

Congress – Coming Soon to a District Near You

For many of us, the word “recess” conjures up images of monkey bars, school yard fights and dodge ball.  In Washington, D.C., this term is used to describe the time period during which legislators return to their districts and states.  Sure, for some this still means school yard fights.  But for the most part the term “recess” is a misnomer.  In fact, legislators and their staff are often working harder in their communities than they might in Washington, D.C. (yes, I know.  Not hard to imagine).

Why is this important now?  The weeks of March 25th and April 1st mark the spring “constituent work week” or “district work period.”  You can be sure the D.C.-types are working hard (instead of hardly working) through one or more of the following three options:

  • Go to a town hall meeting:  Check your legislators’ Facebook pages, Tweets or even take the old-fashioned approach and call their offices to find out where they’ll be in the districts during the next few weeks.  You can find local contact information through their web pages at and  Not sure who represents you in the House?  Go to the House website for an address look-up tool.  As long as you know what state you live in, it should be relatively easy to find your Senators.
  • Let them know about your events:  Are you involved in a community spring fair?  A fundraiser for your cause? A meeting?  A conference? Even just a regular old work day? Whatever you’ve got going on in the next few weeks, if you think creatively you might find something you can invite your legislator or staff person to see or do.  Don’t reinvent the advocacy wheel.  Use your existing events to your advantage.
  • Utilize media effectively:  When policymakers are back home you can be sure they’re listening to the local TV and radio news shows as well as reading the smaller circulation community papers . Now’s the time to call in to drive time shows with your thoughtful (not insulting) comments on what’s happening in D.C., write letters to the editor (these generally have a short turnaround time), or find an opportunity to connect with local TV news reporters.  The more timely your story, the more likely you’ll be to capture attention, both of the community and your legislators.
The point is, you don’t have to come to Washington, D.C. to make a difference.  If you want to be sure your elected representatives are working, not brawling, take advantage of the “recess” to deliver your message.  They need to know how policy issues impact the people they represent – and this is the time to not just tell them, but show them as well.

***The following article was written by Stephanie Vance, The Advocacy Guru. Follow her on Twitter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I so enjoy your wonderful insight on DC! You have such a gift for making a grim subject light and entertaining!

A fan from Chicago!