Republican Matt Doheny says that if he wins the Nov. 6 race for Congress, his staffers will personally respond to every correspondence that comes their way and that within his first two-year term, he'll have held a town hall in all 194 towns and cities in the 21st Congressional District. He'll also have a congressional office in all 12 counties in the congressional district.
But wait! There's more! He'll do all of that for less money than Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, his opponent, is currently spending in office expenses.
“A congressman must be accountable to his constituents. What better way than to come to their hometown and spend an hour talking to them about their concerns?" Mr. Doheny said in a news release.
Mr. Owens, in an interview, suggested that Mr. Doheny's approach is not feasible.
“I would raise questions about the financial and physical capacity to do some of the things that are proposed,” Mr. Owens said.
His office receives 35,000 pieces of correspondence a year, including email, Mr. Owens said. To save time, the office will respond with an identical response outlining Mr. Owens' position on Hypothetical Issue X. That's because many of those letters are identical themselves; interest groups ask their like-minded followers to send congressmen letters on issues.
Responding to each one personally "would be very difficult, given the amount of work that we need to do."
Mr. Doheny said he would pay for it by cutting out franked mail privileges. Mr. Owens has sent about $500,000 to send free mailings via the USPS, according to Mr. Doheny's campaign.
Will the math actually work out? Mr. Owens' office says it has spent $440,000 less than his original budget from when he took office in November 2009, if we're taking into account budget-cutting that he's voted to approve. He has three local offices: Watertown, Plattsburgh and Oneida County. He said he's proud of the outreach his office has been able to accomplish — telephone town halls, mobile office hours and the like.
Responding personally to each correspondence and embarking on eight days straight — not counting travel time — of town halls in far-flung locales is something of an outlandish proposal that I doubt many current congressmen could or would match, but one that reflects the maxim that "all politics is local." It also reflects Mr. Doheny's claim to be the most hard-working guy in Washington.