Did you know that there are over 500,000 elected officials in the U.S.—and only one-tenth of one percent of them work at the federal level?
School districts have 95,000 total elected officials. Towns have over 126,000. And cities have over 135,000. These local officials aren’t often featured in national media. Their work is often rote and mundane compared to the drama of Washington, D.C. But consider this: your school, your roads, laws regulating small businesses, and much more are all directed and decided by local officials.
These local officials sometimes manage billions of dollars of government spending, impact local industries and causes, and set the direction of their communities. It makes sense that, when appropriate, they should be targets of your advocacy campaigns.
While advocating to federal officials is certainly important, don’t forget that local officials can influence your industry or cause. Here are three examples of elected officials who you may not have heard of before, but are powerful influencers and should be part of advocacy campaigns.
1. Railroad Commission of Texas
Since 1876, the Railroad Commission of Texas, a committee of three elected officials, has regulated the oil, gas, and energy industries in Texas. Yes, the Railroad Commission of Texas doesn’t actually regulate railroads. There’s a long story there.
The Commission, which operates more like an agency than a political body despite its officials being elected, has a surprising amount of power. Their rulemaking authority ranges from regulating business and industry to establishing environmental protections.
As recently as 2008, the Commission established rules and penalties in the selling of natural gases. In 2009, they established rules regarding safety regulations around energy pipelines—an issue that’s certainly been the target of advocacy efforts lately. In fact, advocates fought a long battle to reform the organization, which was just reauthorized in May of this year. The Commission has been the target of other advocacy efforts at the local level as well.
If you’re in Texas and want to engage advocates on energy or environmental issues, then you should include this Commission in your campaigns.
2. Clark County Commission, Nevada
In Nevada, a local county commission has arguably more power than the state legislature.
A large portion of the land surrounding the Vegas strip is unincorporated. Without any municipal presence, all oversight in the region goes to the Clark County Commission. Since the Vegas strip is the largest source of income for the state, the Commission oversees the largest budget in the state—a $1.3 billion budget.
In addition to their official power as the governing body of these unincorporated areas, the Commission serves ex officio as the governing bodies of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, Clark County Water Reclamation District, University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, Big Bend and Kyle Canyon water districts, and the Clark County Liquor and Gaming Licensing Board.
Every business, organization, and trade or professional association in that area should target them as a part of their advocacy efforts. This is especially true on issues that affect business, water, gaming, or healthcare regulations.
3. Iowa Secretary of State
State Secretaries of State have traditionally been nonpartisan, nonpolitical figures. Their duties usually include overseeing state elections and other miscellaneous tasks.
But since the controversy of the 2000 presidential election, Secretaries of State have become more politicized. Now people are focused not only on the candidates, but on the people who control the election process.
Iowa votes first in the presidential primaries—influencing which candidates stay in the race for the remainder of the process—and is a swing state in the general election. Recently, there’s been a surprising amount of coverage around their election for Secretary of State. This one elected official sets the rules for Iowa elections, and those policy decisions can impact election outcomes—even unintentionally.
In the other forty-nine states, it is important for organizations who advocate for voter rights, voter protections, or increased voter integrity to focus on their Secretaries of State or other electoral authorities.
While you build your advocacy campaigns, don’t forget that while federal officials get the most attention, some of these local elected officials can have influence on your industry or cause. Make sure that your advocacy efforts are all that they can be; connect your advocates with these officials and watch real change—substantive, long-term change—happen.
Did you know that Phone2Action’s platform lets you launch advocacy campaigns directed at state and local elected officials? Learn more about all of the features of our platform, and reach out to our team for a demo.