October 9, 2017

The power of political presence

As political campaigns become more virtual and candidates rely more and more on surrogates and media advertising to reach voters, the voters themselves increasingly prize politicians who are willing to give them face time, press the flesh and be present in their communities.

That’s an approach to campaigning Treig Pronschinske employed in his successful campaign to for Wisconsin state assembly. Pronschinske surprised Wisconsin’s political establishment by beating the Democratic incumbent in District 92 last fall. He won in part simply by being present for his would-be constituents.

We caught up with Treig over the summer between his shifts at one of the vending stands at the Trempealeau County Fair in his rural western Wisconsin district.

“Frankly, I didn’t see him out and about,” Pronschinske said about his opponent during the campaign. “And I think that’s important. Whether it’s at a fair like we’re at or another event locally…that’s important, and I was a little discouraged that I didn’t see him out and about….And that was one of the reasons [I ran].”

When he was elected mayor of a small city nearby, Pronschinske said to himself, “If I can’t walk the streets in the city I represent, then I don’t deserve to be mayor. And I take that pretty serious with being an assemblyman.”

“It’s the contact with people face to face. It’s not about commercials or mailers, in my eyes. And it’s about being able to relate with those people. And to be able to sit down and talk about things that really matter. Not talk about myself but talk about what they got going on in their life, and that’s important.”

One conclusion The Race To 2020 has drawn about the 2016 election is that Donald Trump won over many voters in counties previously won by Barack Obama simply by showing up and campaigning in them, while Hillary Clinton largely ignored them.

Pronschinske said he isn’t resting on his laurels now that he’s been elected. “You can’t forget who you’re representing, and just because I was elected it doesn’t mean I don’t need to show up here, or at any other fair in my district.”

This video was originally featured as a part of the Washington Examiner’s series The Race to 2020: The people and places that will define a presidency. You can read more about Trempealeau County, see more videos, or use the form below to get email updates about future updates.

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