Letters to the Editor

Our Reader: Where in the world is John Katko?

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) is in a unique position in the 115th Congress. He is one of a small number of members of Congress who represent a district that can be genuinely called a swing district. In fact, he is the first member of either party to be returned by voters in the 24th district two terms in a row in the past decade. So why hasn’t he made more time to talk to his voters back home? A town hall would be a welcome step in the right direction.

As a moderate Republican representing a swing district, Rep. Katko has an especially important role to play in shaping the direction of legislation in coming years. As part of a group of fellow moderate Republicans called the Tuesday Group, Rep. Katko is also in a position to influence his fellow representatives and help build bipartisan alliances for legislation. As Congress debates critical issues like immigration, spending on infrastructure and education, economic regulation and health care, Rep. Katko faces the difficult task of balancing the interests of his party and of his constituents.

Any political scientist will tell you that the relationship between a member of Congress and their constituents is the most important one. We have a phrase for it: the electoral connection. Members of Congress maintain this relationship in many ways: through constituent services, the votes the cast and the statements they make. More than anything, though, voters appreciate feeling a connection to their elected officials. This is why so many politicians walk in parades, show up at a business opening, or shake every hand they can. Communicating with and talking to your constituents is critical to keeping that electoral connection running strong.

Since the election, though, Rep. Katko has not made many public appearances in his district. As the 115th Congress starts debating the many important issues facing it, Rep. Katko should talk to his constituents. They deserve the opportunity to talk to him about important issues like student loans or insurance, job opportunities or immigration. Voters and organizations throughout the community would welcome the chance to talk to him face-to-face. Like most members, he returns to his district regularly. Congress will go into recess in late February. Will Rep. Katko use some of that time back home to meet with constituents at a town hall?

Eric van der Vort

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science

Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

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