Use these tips from Ohio citizen Ellen Greene Bush to build your confidence about the critical but simple job of meeting with your elected officials and candidates.
Ellen Greene Bush is an American Promise citizen leader from the Port Clinton, Ohio, American Promise Association. Her organization has gotten 11 Ohio candidates and officials to sign the American Promise Pledge, in which candidates pledge to use their office to advance the 28th Amendment to get big money out of politics. Ellen has had dozens of meetings with legislators and candidates. From her varied experience, she offers these tips to others working to advance the 28th Amendment:
- Be persistent. Getting a meeting scheduled may take months. Be kind to the scheduler or legislative aide. Use email occasionally to send the legislator a letter to the editor you have written or an article about your APA. This will keep your name and issue in the forefront. If your official offers office hours or town halls in your area, go. Introduce yourself. On one occasion, we went to our state representative’s scheduled office hours, and we were the only ones there. We got a lot of face-to-face time that day! The American Promise Candidate Pledge citizen guide offers other ideas for making the 28th Amendment a popular topic.
- Follow this expert advice. At the American Promise National Citizen Leadership Conference last summer in Washington D.C., long-time activist and author Sam Daley-Harris shared his tips with us about how to effectively meet with legislators. Here is the video. Some of his tips include connecting with and thanking your representative, asking how much time they have available, sharing the work your group is doing around the state, and making a targeted ask. I can’t say enough about the importance of his advice. It makes all the difference.
- The midterm elections offer a great opportunity to meet candidates. Candidates are out in the community and more keen to respond to potential voters. Pay attention to events in your area and attend if you can. Two of us were able to meet with Zach Space, running for Ohio Auditor, at a small event. We had a wonderful discussion and found one of our most passionate 28th Amendment supporters.
- Come prepared. Elected officials respect constituents who can provide them with new information and support their requests with facts. But don’t worry, no one expects citizens to be law experts to have these conversations. American Promise offers these facts you can use in conversation. If the candidate asks something you don’t know, acknowledge it, and follow-up in an email with the information. If you don’t have the answer, feel free to reach out to the national organization. We have lawyers and experts on staff who can help answer any question.
- Practice until you become comfortable. Role-play with friends, family or fellow American Promise Association members. Find out the strengths of the people on your team. There are three of us who do the legislator meetings. We work well together, and the respect we have for each other comes across in our meetings with legislators.