About three dozen people from across the North Country met in Plattsburgh Friday afternoon to demonstrate their displeasure over Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s refusal to hold a town hall meeting with constituents.
After first gathering in Plattsburgh’s Trinity Park, the group marched to Stefanik’s district office. Indivisible affiliate Plattsburgh-Adirondack Building Bridges organizer Cara Murray says it’s important to send a message to the 21st District second-term Republican. “We are just demonstrating that there are in fact active constituents in the community that really want Elise to hold a town hall so we can express some our questions and concerns.”
Reporter: “Why a town hall? Elise Stefanik has said she’s more than willing to meet with smaller groups?”
Murray: “And she and her staff have been cooperative on that front. But really the format of a town hall would allow the congresswoman to get up and defend her positions in front of lots of different people all at the same time. She also encourages these small groups to meet with several staff members first to be vetted. So really a town hall would allow people to ask the questions of the day and get concise answers.”
Kathleen Recchia of Jay, New York jumped in to note a report on engaging millennials that Congresswoman Stefanik released last week that recommends holding town halls. “She advocates town halls to get to millenniums and then she doesn’t want to have one in her own district. It’s very frustrating. Now are those town halls only supposed to be for young Republicans? Is that what we’re supposed to gather, she does not want to really hear from everyone in her district?”
Keeseville resident Cathy LaBombard and her husband attended the Glens Falls town hall on Wednesday even though they knew Congresswoman Stefanik would not be there. “It was very respectful, nobody shouting and yelling, very non-threatening. The ground rules were set up really well. They had signs for us to hold up that said either we agree or we disagree and they asked us not to be vocal. And so it worked really, really well. I think it would have been the same had she been there.”
The group walked through the rain to Stefanik’s Plattsburgh office where they hoped to meet with staff. Joel Wood, the congresswoman’s assistant, told those gathered that he would meet them in groups of two or three. “Unfortunately per office policy I can’t allow any recording in the office.”
Jay, NY resident Annie Scavo was among the first to meet with Wood. While cordial, Scavo would prefer direct conversation with her congressional representative. “She has to know what the feelings are of her constituents and that she represents us. And we want to meet her face-to-face and have her say, not through someone else, I want to know from her lips what she feels, and what’s going on and how she intends to vote.”
During a recent conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock on The Congressional Corner program, Stefanik noted that she has participated in more than 500 district events since taking office and will continue smaller group meetings. “I do think the nationalization of town halls is not a step in the right direction. I think we should be having productive conversations. So what I’ve done in my district as some of these groups and organizations affiliated with the Democratic movement nationally, as they demand for town halls, I’m actually inviting them in for meetings.”
Stefanik’s office emailed a statement to WAMC, noting the congresswoman was on a previously scheduled official trip Friday for all new members of the House Intelligence Committee.