As we move into our next legislative season, I continue to be amazed by the political noise and upheaval. Changes in representation are coming, as long-term Senators and Representatives retire and new candidates begin their efforts to secure election. Living in Texas, I have had stable representatives for decades, but now my local House member, Joe Barton, is not running as a result of the controversy surrounding the photos he texted to his “girlfriend” which have now been shared publicly. Another Texas representative is resigning due to sexual harassment allegations.
This has led to a number of folks entering the primaries whose ideologies are vastly different and who may be virtually unknown in traditional political circles. The recent election in Alabama’s Senate race (I grew up in Alabama and my family still lives there), may just be an example of the conflicts to come.
Emotions run high as voters begin to identify the candidates they will support. I believe it is more important than ever for each of us to be involved in our local elections to insure that we support men and women who can govern, folks who can comprise and find solutions to complex problems. We must build relationships with new leaders and find common ground with elected officials whose focus is not on people with intellectual disabilities.
This task is daunting and sometimes, discouraging, as a colleague recently shared her disappointment in meeting with a state representative, who spent most of his time asking about her church affiliation. ANCOR has survived political changes in the past and we are finding our footing as new leaders emerge on campaign trails and in legislative offices. Disability issues are by definition bi-partisan and we have spent the last year educating legislators and their staff members about the importance of Medicaid as the single source of funding for community supports.
We have had success, but it will take all of our efforts to be heard among the clamor of differences so prevalent in our current political environment. Individuals contributions to our PAC, participation in local town hall meetings, countless emails, visits and phone calls to our legislators will be necessary for each of us this year in order to ensure that our elected officials hear ANCOR priorities and insure strong community supports for people with intellectual disabilities through a well trained workforce, supported by adequate funding.
ANCOR will once again be leading the way to gather support for new initiatives and ensure that the systems put into place for strong community programs are not reduced through entitlement reform. I am asking each of you to join in these efforts as we navigate the changes coming in this election year! It won’t be boring!
Angela King is CEO of Volunteers of America Texas and ANCOR's Board President. She can be reached at [email protected].