Dear Bruce. Congratulations on your victory. You must be excited about going to Washington as the 2nd District’s member of Congress. You won’t be surprised to hear that I have some advice for you.
Let’s begin with the negatives. While your victory was impressive, more than half of those who voted wanted someone else to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives. That should be humbling, and remind you that you must work hard to convince those voters that you can do a good job for them. You don’t just represent the 48 percent who voted for you, Bruce!
The other bit of bad news is this: I live in the 2nd District, so now you work for me. As our employee, your job is much different than that of the boss. You have been the boss for a long time. I can only hope and pray that you can make this adjustment.
I worked for Maine’s 1st District congressman, my friend Dave Emery, from 1974 to 1982, and I doubt that things have changed all that much in Washington. So here’s my advice, based on what I saw and learned during those eight years.
Members of Congress are pampered. Among many other things, you’ll have your own gym, barber shop, private dining room, special parking spots right in front of the D.C. airport, and a license plate that allows you to park anywhere you want in the city. You could park in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and not get a ticket.
When Emery was there, Congress employed people at handsome salaries to push the buttons in the private elevators reserved for members of Congress. I sure hope that has changed.
Emery employed many of us who were not afraid to give him our opinions. Don’t hire a bunch of yes-men and yes-women, Bruce. Hire people who are smart and well informed, and who can keep you anchored in reality, outside that unreal world that is the United States Congress.
I encourage you to adopt some of the practices that Emery initiated. He was the first to expand district offices from two to four, placing half of his staff in Maine to help his constituents with the issues and problems they have with federal agencies and programs. This is an important part of your job.
He also flew home every weekend to spend time with those constituents, initiating “Emery Town Meetings” in Grange Halls and elsewhere. Emery Town Meetings were well attended and very popular. Emery would give a short speech about current issues before the Congress, and then answer questions and hear the concerns and opinions of the audience.
We estimated, in the eight years Emery served in Congress, he personally met more than half of the 500,000 people he represented. We also started newsletters for key interest groups, from sportsmen to veterans.
And here’s a very important suggestion: Be nonpartisan, Bruce. U.S. Sen. Ed Muskie, a Democrat, was a huge help to Emery, the young Republican congressman. You can create good relationships with those in the other party. And that can pay big dividends, both in your achievements in Washington, D.C., and in your popularity back home. It is especially important that you have good relationships with the three other elected officials in Maine’s small congressional delegation.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the two most popular political leaders in our state are Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, neither of whom is known for partisanship. Study the careers of my favorite Republicans, Teddy Roosevelt and Margaret Chase Smith, and do everything you can to be like them.
And oh yeah, if you want a good meal, Sonoma restaurant is just a couple of blocks from the Capitol. Ask for Hilary Smith, a server there. Her opinions might not mirror her dad’s, but that’s OK.
There are more than 150 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., for each member of Congress. They spend billions each year lobbying the Congress and helping their favorites get elected.
The money those lobbyists spent to help you get elected was not contributed because they think you are a great guy. They invested in you and are expecting a return (profit) on that investment. I know I don’t have to tell you how investments work, Bruce.
Just don’t forget that you are now our lobbyist. And keep in touch.