Anyone who knows state Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) knows he loves to talk, especially about policy and politics. Zalewski is now sharing that interest with others with a new podcast that he hosts.
The podcast is named “Have All Voted Who Wish,” which is what they say on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives before a voted is closed.
“I love podcasts,” Zalewski said. “I think they are a forum for discussion in a way that you don’t get on a radio show. I’ve been fortunate enough in this job to do radio interviews, and you have to boil your answers down to 10-second bites.
“That’s just so hard to talk about policy, to talk about politics, to talk about human interest, to do it that way. Podcasts have no such limitations. You really can stretch your legs and get out there and get into a different kind of conversation.”
Zalewski hosts the podcast with Chris Crisanti, who is the head of the Brookfield Democratic Party and another politics and policy junkie.
The first three episodes of “Have All Voted Who Wish” were recorded late last year and another episode was recently broadcast.
In the pilot episode Crisanti interviewed Zalewski about the Illinois General Assembly’s veto session, but all the podcasts since have featured guests Zalewski and Crisanti interview.
Guests have included Chicago-based Democratic consultant Tom Bowen, Crain’s Chicago Business political reporter A.D. Quig and state representatives Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) and Nick Smith (D-Chicago). Each episode typically runs 45 minutes to an hour.
Besides being an opportunity to share interesting conversations and introduce listeners to some of the interesting people Zalewski encounters on a regular basis, the podcast provides Zalewski with a different way to engage with his constituents and voters.
“I also think that we’re talking to our constituents in different ways,” Zalewski said. “I think that you have to find unique ways to get in front of the people you represent, and they’re no longer consuming media in the same way. You have to be on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, and you have to appeal to their ear just as much as their eye.”
“Have All Voted Who Wish” is available on Apple podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.
The podcast does not come out on a regular schedule, but Zalewski hopes to air one every few weeks.
“I do only want to do it when it’s timely,” Zalewski said.
Zalewski said podcasts will probably be more frequent when the state legislature is in session.
“I’ve got a feeling when I’m in Springfield and when I’m around people and have ideas, people tell me stories, that I’ll be able to turn on the microphone more,” Zalewski said. “That’s the vision.”
To date, Zalewski has recorded the podcasts from a studio at Boxless Media, a digital marketing company based in Brookfield, whose owner, Jason Baumann, who grew up with Zalewski on the Southwest Side of Chicago in the Archer Heights neighborhood.
They both attended St. Symphorosa Catholic School. Baumann is about a year older than Zalewski who was in the same grade as Baumann’s brother, Brian.
Zalewski has learned that a broadcast-worthy podcast involves more than recording an interview. After recording an interview, it takes some post-production work to get the interview polished and ready to air.
“I say ‘um’ a lot and that has to come out [and] there’s times when there are awkward transitions that they have to clean up,” Zalewski said. “You just talk for basically 30 minutes to 45 minutes, and then it’s up to the engineering and sound guy to construct it in a way that people can actually listen to.”
Zalewski said that he pays Boxless a couple of hundred dollars an episode for the studio time and sound and engineering work. The payments come from Zalewski’s campaign funds. There is no advertising on the podcast and Zalewski said that he’s not trying to make any money with it.
“It’s a good investment,” Zalewski said. “I enjoy it. I’ve gotten great feedback on it. People have listened to it which flatters me. I really do it because it is something that I enjoy doing.”