As Republicans continue to fight back against trained activists disrupting their town halls, some of the nation’s most vulnerable Senate Democrats are refusing to hold meetings with their constituents ahead of the 2018 elections.
While Congress is on recess, lawmakers across the country have been holding town halls to discuss issues ranging from repealing and replacing Obamacare, border security, and the president’s executive order limiting immigration from seven terror-ridden nations.
“Seems to me that all these members of Congress are afraid to face their constituents,” said Hillary Shields.
While disruptions to Republican town halls have received much of the media’s attention, notable Democrats are skipping out on the chance to speak to the voters about important issues.
Democrats avoiding in-person town halls altogether have instead resorted to communication through the telephone, e-mail surveys, and social media. Some are only meeting with voters in controlled environments with limited opportunities to ask questions, according to ABC News.
“Seems to me that all these members of Congress are afraid to face their constituents,” said Hillary Shields, a volunteer organizer with the Kansas City Indivisible, said after Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) declined the group’s invitation to attend a town hall.
Democrats will be defending 25 seats in 2018, 10 of which are in states carried by President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
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McCaskill declined an invitation from Indivisible, the liberal activist group leading many of the protests against Republican lawmakers at town halls, and instead sent one of her staffers to speak on her behalf, according to ABC News.
Trump won McCaskill’s state by 19 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, making Missouri a high-priority target for Republicans to try to unseat McCaskill in 2018.
McCaskill does not have any scheduled town halls, but she is slated to speak with her constituents this upcoming week on Facebook Live.
The political pressure has kept other endangered Democrats in hiding from their constituents. Neither Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) held in-person town halls during the recent recess. Trump won both of their states by more than 30 points in November.
Heitkamp’s office indicated that she participated in a discussion about flood issues with voters in northeastern North Dakota and attended a subsequent ribbon-cutting event. Likewise, Manchin’s office reported an equally busy schedule, while his constituents argued he has been “hard to find” this past week, according to the Associated Press.
In Montana, where Trump beat Clinton by 20 percentage points, Sen. Jon Tester made a few small public appearances, but none in the form of a town hall where voters could ask him questions.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) claimed he would be hosting a town hall in early March, but details of the event are not yet available on his official website. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) delivered remarks to students Thursday, while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) spoke with his constituents through a tele-town hall.
Other Senate Democrats not up for re-election in 2018 are ducking town halls, too. Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are not scheduled to speak in their states at all, The Seattle Times reported.
Last Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) faced a raucous crowd that repeatedly heckled the former infantryman as he attempted to answer audience questions. Cotton kept his cool and answered many of the questions that were asked of him, even as he was being booed.
The importance of speaking to your constituents is crucial, Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“It’s now on us to produce results. And one of the things that we need to do is engage with the public,” Christie said.