Morning Business: From Districts to the District

Posted February 22, 2010 at 6:45pm

District directors have the unglamorous task of handling lawmakers’ constituent services back home. It’s labor that largely goes unheralded, but in a year of rising anti-incumbent fervor, it can also mean the difference between re-election and defeat.

[IMGCAP(1)]Against that backdrop, about 70 district directors for House Democratic freshmen and sophomores are coming to town today for a two-day conference aimed at helping the frontline staff navigate the choppy political waters.

The conference, organized by the offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (Md.), will take the directors through sessions on developing a “strategic district plan” for the year, helping them hone their messaging on the economy and tailoring their outreach to “base communities” such as young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Staff at the conference will hear from some Beltway heavyweights — including a lunch today with Anita Dunn, former White House communications director and now a partner at Squier Knapp Dunn Communications. But many of the presentations come courtesy of colleagues in newer offices who have struck on effective tools for selling their bosses’ work back home. The session closes Wednesday with an optional ethics briefing focused on “campaign year considerations,” according to a copy of the agenda.

“This is about using all the strengths of our Caucus to support our newest Members, matching them up with folks who have similar experiences and a specific focus on the issues they care about,” one Democratic leadership aide said.

House Democratic leaders first rolled out the district director fly-in last year. This conference marks the third such event.