On Tuesday, freshman Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson officially opened her new district office in Joliet. The first sign that something was happening was on I-80. On the crowded stretch between Orland and Joliet, we all seemed to be going to the same place. There were green "Halvorson" stickers on many of the cars. If you eliminated the trucks who shared the road with us, we'd have legitimately been called a caravan.
Following the internet mapping programs only work if all the roads are marked. So I almost missed the road perpendicular to the Joliet baseball stadium. But I was familiar enough with the area to know that the next road (Clinton) was a road too far. Thank god for a tight turning radius.
Parking was the next issue. Everyone was looking for a parking spot ten minutes before the open house was supposed to begin. Thankfully, I noticed a spot back from whence I came and (again) turned around. As I did so, I noticed that Halvorson's district office manager was putting up the ribbon. So I had timed everything just right.
As I set up the camera (in the cold -- brrrr), dozens of people slipped inside to go to the fourth floor office of the new Congresswoman. Lots of familiar faces, lots of anticipation on them. The previous Congressman was known more for his time in Guatemala than in the district, and it showed.
About 20 minutes later, the crowded descended on the stairs. The staff readied the flags and ribbon and then Debbie Halvorson appeared. This video starts then.
What we saw was a Congresswoman adjusting to her new schedule, where her life was no longer her own -- and finding a place in it. She smiles as she talks about "Congress on the corners," where she gets to reconnect with the people in the district. But Halvorson was also realistic in explaining that her staff was really her connection to people's concerns, and inviting her guests to reach out to them and deal with them as if they were dealing with her.
This kind of outreach is exactly what is required to defend Democrats in Republican areas. Tip O'Neill may have believed that all politics is local, but that was 30 years ago. This is the internet age, and now all politics is personal. Debbie Halvorson is bridging that divide in her large Congressional District.
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