While William L. "Bill" Jenkins seemed like an under-the-radar congressman, David Davis apparently wants to be a congressman who is all over constituents' personal radar screen.
Davis' approach to raising his profile in Northeast Tennessee's 1st Congressional District appears to be 180 degrees apart from his GOP predecessor.
While Jenkins' congressional office did have a Web site and did send out e-mailed news releases, the Rogersville Republican did not seek out frequent interviews with the news media.
Davis, a freshman Republican in a Democrat-controlled House, makes himself available regularly for interviews with district media outlets, uses an interactive Web site (www.david.davis.house.gov) and holds "Tele Town Hall" phone conferences with constituents. The congressman also does a "Davis Capitol Update" - a 90-second radio broadcast that is being carried on 15 individual radio stations in the district.
He also seems to be trying to make as many House floor speeches as possible - the kind that are televised at night by C-SPAN with a lot of empty seats in the background.
"I really do believe the term representative means representing the people in the district. I believe the seat belongs to the people of the 1st District. It's incumbent on me to reach out and share with them what I'm doing on their behalf," the Johnson City Republican said in explaining his outreach efforts.
From Davis' House Web site, computer users can subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter that will note his positions on hot-button issues such as immigration reform and point out new federal grant announcements.
"It's a good way to get information out that doesn't cost the taxpayer anything, and it's a good way for people to stay in touch," Davis said of the e-newsletter, which features links to legislation he is backing and text of his floor speeches.
The "Tele Town Hall" works like this: A computer places a call to thousands of constituents and tells them "If you want to join in a live Town Hall with Congressman Davis, press 3 now." The caller then has an opportunity to press a button to ask Davis a question. The phone conferences generally last 90 minutes.
Davis said illegal immigration "without a doubt" is the number one issue on the minds of constituents during the conferences. He opposed the immigration reform bill that recently died in the Senate.
Other hot topics coming out of the conferences are health care, energy costs, the budget, taxes and spending, and the Iraq War.
"It's falling," Davis said of constituent interest in the war. "It is in the top five, but it is not number one."
Davis' publicity strategy seems to be characteristic of a politician conscious of having to run a shadow campaign one year before the real campaign begins. He is up for re-election in 2008. His campaign account reported having about $50,000 cash on hand during the first quarter of this year, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
"If you're a congressman, the reality is you have to be running all the time," Davis said. "That's the way the system is set up. ... Some people say ‘You ought to have a four-year term or a six-year term.' I really believe in a two-year term. A two-year term requires congressmen from all over the country to go back to their districts and talk to the people to represent their concerns."
One potential Republican opponent for Davis next year could be Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe, who finished fourth in a 10-candidate race during the 2006 Republican primary. Democrats haven't held the 1st District seat in more than 100 years.
Roe still has an open campaign account, with cash on hand of about $2,200, at the FEC.
"I haven't made a decision to do it yet, but I haven't ruled it out," Roe said of running again for Congress. "Taking on an incumbent on is a big deal ... (but) I wasn't unhappy with how I ran last time. ... I enjoyed getting out and meeting people."