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Government, Politics & Issues

Two GOP reps are locked in a heated primary. How well have they served their constituents?

U.S. Representatives Mary Miller, R-Coles County and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.
Mary Miller via YouTube screenshot
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Belleville News-Democrat
U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, of Coles County, Illinois, will face fellow Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, of Taylorville, to represent Illinois’ 15th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Metro East.

Jack Hickman of Fairview Heights waited more than a year and a half for the state of Illinois to renew the identification card that allows him to possess a firearm.

“I like to keep things above board, cross those t’s and dot those i’s,” said Hickman, a 71-year-old veteran who worked in information technology for the military.

Bureaucracy didn’t stump him, but Hickman said he can see how people would get frustrated and reach out to their member of Congress for help.

“An elected official who is not responsive to voters’ needs is somebody who does not need to be in office,” Hickman said. “They are our representatives. They represent our attempts to participate in the governmental process.”

Hickman managed to renew his card on his own earlier this year, but problems such as his are some of the most common members of Congress from Illinois hear about through their local offices.

Two members of Congress from Illinois will face each other in the June 28 primary to become the GOP nominee for the newly drawn 15th Congressional District.

The television ads are heated and the tweets are flying in the race between Republican U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller. It’s an unusual race in that both candidates are incumbents. Illinois Democrats gerrymandered the district to force one of the Republicans out of the Illinois GOP delegation.

But how well have Davis and Miller served constituents in their current terms?

To evaluate their constituent services, the BND reviewed data for each lawmaker on local office hours, constituent cases resolved, constituent service staff and how much they spent on those personnel. The BND evaluated office hours open to the public, though members of Congress also hold private meetings with constituents regularly.

This map shows office hour events 13th Congressional District Rep. Rodney Davis and 15th District Rep. Mary Miller held that were open to the public in 2021 and so far in 2022.

Davis, 52, has served in Congress since 2012.

“People don’t call a member of Congress when they first have a problem,” Davis said. “They call their member of Congress when they’re at their wits’ end and they are frustrated. They come to us because they have no other recourse. That’s why I tell my team it’s so imperative to provide assistance.”

A spokesperson for Miller, a 62-year-old first-term congresswoman, did not respond to requests for an interview with the representative.

Miller has dodged news reporters at public events and avoided interviews with them, while Davis said he believes working with the press is “part of the job of being a public official.”

“I’ve always talked to members of the media and frankly some of those conversations aren’t comfortable, but that’s what the constituents I represent expect out of me,” Davis said.

Take a look, in alphabetical order, at how each candidate served constituents in 2021 and 2022.

Take a look, in alphabetical order, at how each candidate served constituents in 2021 and 2022.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, 13th Congressional District

Offices:

Davis has district offices in Champaign, Decatur, Edwardsville, Taylorville, Normal and Springfield. The list of office hour events does not include any hours held at permanent offices.

Constituent services staff:

Federal data shows Davis’ office employs two constituent service representatives, but a spokesman for the congressman said five full-time employees handle casework daily.

His office spent $382,077 on the two caseworkers from 2021 through March 2022, according to the most recent federal data. That represents 36% of the office’s total personnel costs.

Davis’ office spent a total of $1.4 million in 2021. The budget for each member of Congress is slightly different and depends on the number of constituents, how far they have to travel to get to D.C., and other factors.

Office hours and traveling help desks:

The congressman has two types of events meant to serve the public in-person. Davis personally attends office hours to get face-time with constituents, and they typically happen in the summer when Congress is in recess.

Traveling help desks happen when Davis is in D.C. Staffers travel around the district, mainly to rural areas to provide services to people who can’t easily access the representative’s permanent offices.

The congressman’s staff held 19 help desks throughout the district in June, July and October last year. So far in 2022, his office has held 17 in May and June. Two more are planned for June 16 in Hardin and Worden.

Davis held 14 office hours in August and September last year, one in each of the 14 counties in the district. He was not personally present for three of them because of a change in the U.S. House voting schedule, a spokesman said.

Davis plans to host office hours again this summer. Overall, the congressman’s office held 52 office hour events.

Cases resolved:

As of mid-June, Davis’ office had resolved 2,978 cases addressing constituent issues, according to his office:

  • 688 passport and visa cases
  • 603 tax filers experiencing delays or other issues 410 constituents with state government issues such as unemployment or firearm owner identification cards
  • 297 seniors or individuals with disabilities with benefits and healthcare
  • 143 veterans with healthcare and service-connected disabilities
  • 90 mail customers who had postal delivery or service issues
  • 71 small business owners with loans and grants

Davis’ office had roughly 400 cases pending.

U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, 15th Congressional District

Offices:

Miller has district offices in Danville, Effingham and Harrisburg. The list of office hour events does not include any hours held at permanent offices.

Constituent services staff:

Miller’s office employs two full-time staff who work only on constituent casework.

From 2021 through March 2022, Miller’s office spent $435,876 in personnel costs on the two caseworkers, according to the most recent federal data available. That represents 49% of all the office’s personnel costs.

Miller’s office spent a total of $1.3 million in 2021.

Office hours:

Miller’s office held 51 office hours in 2021 and 2022, according to a list provided by a spokesperson for the representative. The spokesperson did not respond to questions about which events Miller attended personally and which were hosted only by staff.

Miller’s office held events open to the public in each of the 33 counties in the 15th District throughout February and March 2021 shortly after she took office.

Three additional office hour events took place in Edwardsville in December following a deadly tornado there. In 2022, Miller’s office held eight events in January, one in March and one in June.

Four office hours were “themed” events designed to serve specific constituents. Miller’s office held “law enforcement” and “agriculture” hours in June and August last year. Her office also hosted an event in May this year in Mahomet to connect students, parents and others to military representatives.

Cases resolved:

As of mid-June, Miller’s office has resolved 1,258 constituent cases, according to Miller’s spokesperson. A news release from earlier this year said the office completed roughly 460 in 2021. Miller’s office did not provide the number of total cases opened this term.

Kelsey Landis is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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