Getting to Know You: New Legislators in 2021

In this year of increased political awareness and interest in the political process, a host of newly elected officials – at the federal and state levels – have assumed office and are waiting for PAs to reach out. With constituent organizations (COs) planning for (or already in the midst of) the new legislative sessions, it is critically important to begin laying the foundation now for legislative success by establishing relationships with new legislators. Here are 5 quick tips for getting in the door:

  1. Do your research. Identify new legislators and research their background. Do they have prior healthcare experience? Do any of your board members have an existing relationship with incoming legislators? Are there other factors which might make them potential supporters of your issues? Most candidates have extensive bios on their campaign websites where you can learn about their profession and interests.
  2. Reach out. Now that we’re well into the new year, reach out via phone or email to congratulate the new legislator and briefly introduce yourself, your CO, and the profession. Indicate that you are excited to work together and offer to be a resource in the community for the legislator on healthcare – specifically, PA issues.
  3. Arrange a meeting. A recent Congressional Management Foundation survey confirms what successful COs have known for years: personal visits (whether they’re in person or virtual) and communications from constituents are the best way to influence a legislator on an issue. Ask to meet with the legislator and health staffer in person or by Zoom (learn more about effective socially-distanced advocacy). Bring a brief backgrounder about PAs in your state and consider presenting your top priorities for the new session. This is primarily a get-to-know-you meeting, so don’t overwhelm or aggressively seek their support quite yet, there’ll be plenty of time for that.
  4. Use your PA skills. Foster your budding advocacy relationships in the same way you build rapport with patients: be friendly, be helpful, be trustworthy. You’ll build the confidence of potential champions and be well-positioned to inform their decision making.
  5. Keep in touch. Communicate often and let legislators and staff know the role PAs are playing in your community. Re-state both your CO’s legislative priorities and your willingness to be a resource the legislator can count on. Show appreciation for their interest and efforts on your behalf – “thank you” goes a long way.

Building relationships takes time and persistence, but there is no better indicator of potential legislative success than the strength of your relationships at the capitol. Questions about advocacy? Contact Kristin Butterfield, AAPA’s Director of Grassroots and Political Advocacy, at [email protected].