By Judy Kurtz - 07/31/12 12:08 AM EDT
Long before “Call Me Maybe” was being blasted on the radio, Rep. David Schweikert was giving out his home phone number and telling his constituents to give him a ring.
The Arizona Republican estimates that since he first began sharing his digits with the public as county treasurer around 2004, he has fielded “tens of thousands” of calls to the home he shares with his wife, Joyce, in the Grand Canyon State.
While the chatty lawmaker contends most folks who dial him “are actually amazingly polite,” he has gotten a few doozies.
“The craziest one, I think, is the women who insisted her home value was going down because of all the aliens hiding in her backyard,” recalls Schweikert. But he soon realized this particularly colorful caller wasn’t referring to illegal immigrants: “She was talking about space aliens. There was something called the Phoenix Lights, strange lights above the Phoenix sky, and this women was positive they deposited aliens in her backyard.”
Extraterrestrials or not, Schweikert’s phone might be ringing off the hook more these days.
The congressman, who gets anywhere from three to a dozen calls a day, is in the middle of a fierce primary battle against Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) in the state’s newly redrawn 6th congressional district.
At a recent debate with Quayle, The Arizona Republic writes, Schweikert gave out his number to the audience and said, “I’m always proud to take the call, and I’m proud to answer the questions.”
Schweikert says he also printed how to reach him on his home line onto thousands of refrigerator magnets that were then distributed to residents.
The freshman member says he originally started sharing his number as a way to help voters quickly by avoiding bureaucracy. Now he appreciates the ability to have more than a quickie chat. “The culture at home is much longer conversations. It’s not like in our office with — boom — and you have to be on to the next one.”
While he realizes his home phone talks aren’t for everyone, he says, “If you want the job, I’m saying, ‘I’m here to represent you.’ Well, damn it, be there for people.”
And he insists the number he gives out is definitely his house phone and not some old cellphone stashed in a closet somewhere: “If you dial it right now, I bet my wife will pick up.”
But the plethora of calls did take Schweikert’s spouse a little getting used to, Schweikert said. “At first it’s a little intimidating, but I have a certain belief in human nature and so far, most of the public has actually been really terrific.”
Schweikert says the key to making time to chat is multitasking. “I have a headset at home. I’ll go around the house doing my chores and talking to someone.”