Rep. Timothy Johnson can teach Sisyphus a thing or two about futile efforts. The Illinois Republican has been on a 10-year quest to personally phone each of the 300,000 households in his district, but, like
the Greek king condemned to roll the rock up a hill only to have it roll back as he reached the summit, Johnson will soon have to start over.
The Illinois Legislature has drawn a new district for Johnson this year that leaves out many of many of the people he has been calling and adds thousands of new constituents “That is agony, I’ll tell you,” Johnson told The Washington Post
. “I thought: All these relationships! All these friendships! All this service! You know, what is it all about?”
Johnson has been consumed by the task, making calls from airports, on the treadmill, walking down the street and on vacation since joining Congress in 2000. He began the practice while in the state legislature and his aides estimate he has called most households twice. Johnson keeps a tally on sheets with a code. T stands for there, left a message gets an LM and a busy signal merits a B. Ts get follow-ups, Bs won’t get another call for years, the Post reported.
Congressional historians could come up with no other member who has made such an attempt and the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Mann told the Post, “That’s carrying constituency relations to an almost pathological extreme.”
Redistricting, which awaits the approval of the Illinois governor, radically reshaped Johnson’s district and only about 30 percent of his current constituents will be in the new one, which adds about 500,000 new constituents.
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