Name of Professional: Shona Huffman
Profession/Title: Frisco City Councilwoman
Business/Company name: Frisco City Government
Preparing for my second interview, I drafted questions that expanded upon the information regarding voter attitudes from my first interview. To even further expand upon my research, though, I asked questions regarding the transition from campaigning for City Council to serving in City Council.
Given that the city of Frisco hosts an incredibly large and diverse population, I asked Councilwoman Huffman how she appealed to different demographics of Frisco during her campaign, as well as how she manages to represent everyone in Frisco. I found her answer interesting, as she informed me that she obtained the endorsement from both the Catholic and LGBT communities of Frisco. With such a broad range of supporters, Councilwoman Huffman explained that appealing and representing different people is easy, given that one realizes that everyone wants one thing: respect. With this, she further explained how listening to people with an open mind goes a long way. Additionally, Councilwoman Huffman told me about her experiences on the campaign trail, in which, her opponent morphed her platform to match that of whomever she was speaking with. Whereas, Councilwoman Huffman approached voters with respect, but still told them her stance on the given issues, even if they differed from that of her audience.
From the conclusions drawn from my first interview, I contemplated how much of an impact talking to voters actually has. I understand that the best voter outreach efforts consist of personal conversations between elected officials and voters. However, I struggled to synthesize this information with the idea that voters are apathetic because they believe elected officials do not listen to them. If people running for public offices are resonating with citizens on a personal level, shouldn’t people believe their government representation cares about their opinions? This seems like an obvious conclusion. However, I have struggled with this disparity given that the opposite is actually occurring.
This has led me to conclude that voters may believe that the candidates campaigning value their opinions. Once the candidates in question assume their positions in office, the general populace tends to believe they neglect public opinion. In my interview, I learned about voters on the municipal level. However, I have noticed this pattern at the national level, as well. During campaigns, voters are targeted through campaign ads, telephone calls, and flyers in the mail. People in swing states are targeted exponentially greater than those in traditionally Republican or Democratic strongholds. As a resident of a predictably red state, I personally feel as if national candidates do not value my opinion as much as they value the opinion of someone in Ohio, which is historically known as a swing state. After Election Day, public opinion seems to devaluate, given that people cry “Washington does not listen.”
Municipal candidates and representatives do not face this occurrence on such a dramatic level. Still, as ordinances pass that residents widely oppose, voters feel disenfranchised on all levels of government. From my first two interviews I have gathered important information regarding voter outreach and apathy, which has greatly impacted my research regarding how public policies are shaped by the public. However, as I delve deeper into the attitudes and tendencies of voters, the gap between candidates who care and representatives who ignore becomes even more confusing. I hope to pursue this phenomena in my future informational interviews and research.
Date of Interview: September 13, 2016