Posted by: brad – Apr 21, 2017
Trump's actions in DC - from healthcare to budget cuts - continue to put pressure on Congressional Republicans, and one Farmville group hopes to turn up the heat on their congressman, Tom Garrett, whether he shows up or not.
“A conversation with a representative who is going to make decisions on our behalf seems like an important conversation to be had,” said Abigail Horne, a college professor and organizer of an upcoming Town Hall where Representative Garrett of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District has been invited to attend.
The meeting will take place in Farmville on April 22 at Prince Edward County High School’s auditorium from 4p.m. to 6 p.m. and is sponsored by the Prince Edward Democratic Committee. It is open to people across the political spectrum who want to talk about the effects of federal policy on residents in the district.
Scheduled during Congressional recess, Horne hopes that the event will provide a direct line of communication between Garrett and the people he represents.
The congressman faced criticism in February for holding town hall meetings virtually through Facebook live, where he did not have to address his constituents face to face and questions were fielded by him and his staff. In March, he participated in a physical town hall in Charlottesville, which was limited to 230 people and a lottery system was used for tickets.
These tactics have been used by Republican legislators ever since Trump entered office after. Not since the Tea Party Wave during Obama's first term have these usually banal civic events turned into screaming matches.
Just ask Congressman Dave Bratt who was roasted in front of a a crowd of less than 200 in Blackstone, VA, earlier this year.
And while organizers hope for a more peaceful turn out, the impetus for the event stems from a Charlottesville-based event called “Town Hall With (or Without) Congressman Tom Garrett.”
“I think that this seems to be a pretty turbulent political moment,” Horne said. “We have seen that other towns and cities in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States were creating these citizen-led town halls and we thought that this would be a great opportunity for Farmville to become part of that effort.”
Rep. Garrett won his seat last year by more than 58%, similar to Bratt's win of about 57%, making both traditionally secure in Virginia's conservative rural West and South West. But Horne points to the specific district, Prince Edward County, where Garrett only won 51% of the vote.
“There are a lot of different viewpoints here and often the rural areas get overlooked in these bigger issues,” she said.
Horne, who said she's been involved in politics in small ways before, claims her involvmeent this time is based in a need to get involved with her representatives and "the people who speak for me in the federal government.”
“I don’t agree with Congressman Garrett in many ways," she said. "but I think that we’ve found common ground even in disagreement."
Healthcare is one of the issues on the docket for the event which aims to cover three scheduled topics in 30 minute intervals to keep the event organized. The other two subjects include the environment and social issues.
“If people want to bring up questions of the budget or foreign relations, there are whole other set of concerns that can be voiced,” Horne said. “We wanted to make sure that there was some organization to the event.”
And while they hope Garrett’s attends, Horne and her group haven't heard much from the candidate and his attendance isn't guaranteed. But she hopes to record the questions and comments from 5th district residents and hand deliver that to Garrett who could chose to respond.
"Since Donald Trump's election, there's been a rising trend of Republicans in hiding, and Virginians are rightfully calling them out for it," said Democratic Party of Virginia communications director Katie Baker. "The town hall is a cornerstone of our democracy and revered part of our national history. Across the Commonwealth, we've seen increasing grassroots demand for Republicans to show up and listen to the people they were elected to serve."
“We want citizens to speak as if Congressman Garrett were there if he cannot come, ” Horne said of the decision to record the event.
She hopes that Rep. Garrett will be aware of where Farmville and surrounding areas stand on several issues.
“We want it to be open to everybody. We want people to see an opportunity to get involved and have their voices heard,” Horne said.
Words by Charlotte Woods