A Last Word on Working with Difficult Legislators

The Bigger Picture Might be the Best One to Hang on the Wall

I must admit, the wannabe interior designer was coming out when I decided to use this title! But this statement…appropriate when decorating a room, is also appropriate when talking about advocacy. Especially is you’re having trouble getting lawmakers to talk with you.

When I worked with members of the Florida legislature, a comment I heard often was how they were making decisions that affected the entire state, so often they had to look at the bigger picture. If you’re having difficulty meeting with a particular legislator, taking a regional approach may be just the strategy to capture not only their attention, but their colleagues as well throughout the area.

If the reason for the difficulty is because of a new relationship or a newly elected official, remember they’re still learning, just like you when you first got elected or involved in your organization. You know how much there is to learn, and the same is true for them.

So in this instance, perhaps your best strategy is to start with an issue with a more regional impact. Start by working with your counterparts in the other cities. Ask them to introduce you to their legislators. One of the best ways to do this is to accompany them to a meeting and provide their office with the local impact the issue will have on your organization or community.

You could also designate someone amongst the group to serve as the data collection person,  preparing the same information only with the regional impact, and have the individual impacts as supporting documents. This demonstrates you too are looking at the bigger picture.

Another strategy is to host a joint meeting between all the legislators representing the entire region you’re focused on, addressing issues that will affect that area.  If you can coordinate the event, it may save time and have a greater impact with a larger audience. 

Difficult or unresponsive legislators are one of the greatest challenges to effective advocacy. But I bet you’ve overcome challenges before. So focus on what drives you to succeed and you’ll find the spirit and determination to persevere. And who knows…you may eventually convert an adversary into a friend!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy


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