The Washington Post

Gerry Connolly talks to 30,000 people in an hour — on the phone

Congressman Gerald Connolly. “In the future, I will be providing these sound bites via holographic projection.” (Gerald Martineau/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Connolly (D) held his 11th telephone town hall meeting Wednesday night. He even calls you. Whether you want him to or not. The robocalls started to thousands of NoVa residents in Fairfax and Prince William counties shortly before 8 p.m., and more than 30,000 people pressed 1 to participate. And, Connolly spokesman George Burke said, the average person sat in for 20 minutes. Guess it beats ambling on down to the elementary school gym on a Saturday morning, right? And you could even just leave a voice mail for the congressman if you didn’t want to listen to the phone call. Political participation has never been lazier. (Some might say more convenient.)

Burke and his staff screen the calls like producers on talk radio. Connolly hits the button and takes questions live. You could also send in questions via Twitter for the first time. (You don’t even have to hold up the phone. How much lazier can we get?) Connolly answered a dozen questions and also posed a poll question to participants, asking them if they support replacing Medicare with a voucher system. About 73 percent said they did not.

The popularity of this technology is growing. Connolly’s audience Wednesday night “doubled anything we’ve done before,” Burke said, enabling the folks who would never amble down to the gym to have their say. After Connolly finished, he had 50-plus voice mails to return. So he was working. The rest of us were just laying there.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.

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