There really is no better way to understand and best represent a district than to go door-to-door and meet the people in their own communities. I met a couple in Lacey while I was doorbelling recently that really drove home this point. The husband remembered me from when he was living in Puyallup a few years ago. He said that I knocked on his door back then and he always votes for me because of that. Any elected official willing to walk the streets and talk to the people in their own neighborhoods must be someone who understands the people he works for and is willing to work hard for them. His wife then came to the door and thanked me for helping her with a problem she was having a few years back. She and her husband have a special needs child and were not getting the help from the school district that the child needed. My office contacted the school district and, working with them and the family, managed to facilitate a solution to the problem. She said the change made a huge difference for her child.
As an elected official it is impossible to always agree with all the people you represent on every issue, especially in times like these when we face so many difficult public policy challenges. The people I represent will always disagree to at least some extent on exactly what to do about energy policy or education policy or taxes or health care or any number of other important issues. But an elected official can always work hard for the people he represents, listen to them, reach out to them, make sure that their voices are heard and then respond honestly and do everything in his or her power to help with whatever problem a given constituent faces. My staff and I have always done that and always will. From one end of my district to the other we can point to thousands of examples of how we have done our jobs in this way.
I think this starts with doorbelling. To really represent a district you have to understand it, which is hard to do if you don’t walk the streets and meet the people where they live. If I simply relied on the people who came to me I would not get a full picture of my district. I have a simple philosophy: if my constituents have a problem, I have problem. Even if that problem is not directly related to the federal government, as in the example cited above, I want to help if I can. I thank my staff for the tremendous job they have done to deliver on this basic philosophy.
As I mentioned above the issues right now are hard. Please don’t believe anyone who comes along and says there are simple solutions. I believe I understand those issues as well as anyone and will do my best to work towards the best, common sense solutions that help the people I represent, our state and our country. But the one thing I know for sure is that nobody understands this district as well as I do, and nobody will work as hard to represent it.
While I was out knocking on doors over the weekend, I heard a great personal story from a couple I met in NE Tacoma. Both worked in the technology field and had been out of work for over a year. The wife took advantage of a federal program that helped her pay for vocational retraining; she took classes and became qualified to work in medical billing. She got a job and is enjoying her new career. And just this week her husband got hired back at his old company. Both said that they never could have made it – they would have lost their house and she never would have been able to have the time to get retrained – if not for the extended unemployment they received.
I am a strong supporter of a more accountable and fiscally responsible federal budget but during tough times, some critical programs can be the difference between hard working people being able to make it and them being cast into a spiral of unemployment and despair. If my opponent and others on the far right had their way, the couple I met in NE Tacoma would be facing a very different reality. There would have been no federal re-training program— my opponent just sees this as government spending—and no extended unemployment. Instead of being back to work, paying their bills and paying taxes this couple would be another grim statistic in our sluggish economy.
We need thoughtful, common sense leadership as we work our way back to a stronger economy. I supported the balanced budget agreement in 1997 which lead our nation to four straight years of budget surpluses. And, as too many in Congress abandoned these principles, I have consistently voted against popular spending programs and tax cuts that weren’t paid for. Going forward, we must prioritize our spending needs and reform our current programs to make sure we are using them effectively and efficiently.
I will never forget that I work for the people of the 9th Congressional District, and their lives are impacted by the decisions our elected leaders make everyday.