Elections

Senate Dems Facing Tough 2018 Races Avoid Town Halls

Kerry Picket Political Reporter

Town halls centered around rowdy crowds disrupting Republican members of Congress grabbed headlines recently, but certain Senate Democrats facing tough reelection races next year have avoided in-person town halls in their own states all together.

The Associated Press reported Friday Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Bill Nelson of Florida, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin West Virginia all decided against going to town halls to speak to and answer questions from their constituents, preferring to communicate through tele-town halls, e-mail opinion surveys, social media and speeches.

Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill declined an invitation from the liberal organization Indivisible, which has been organizing protesters to crash Republican Congress members’ town halls, to attend a town hall organized by the group’s Kansas City chapter. McCaskill instead sent a staffer to the town hall. Trump won McCaskill’s state by 19 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. She is scheduled to talk to voters this upcoming week on Facebook live.

“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, told the AP.

Both Heitkamp and Manchin come from states where Trump won by an average of 39 points. In Montana, where Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is up for reelection in 2018, Trump won the state by 20 points.

Sen. Casey claimed he would host a town hall in early March but details of the event are not available yet. Sen. Nelson only delivered remarks to students last Thursday, while Sen. Brown stuck to communicating with his Ohio constituents through a tele-town hall.

Other Senate Democrats not up for reelection in 2018 are avoiding town halls as well. Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, The Seattle Times reported, have dodged the public forums.

Murray told reporters last week, “I do spend a lot of time, and I am this week, going out and talking to people where they work, and you know, what’s happening to them, listening to stories. We’re getting so many letters and phone calls and mail.” She added, “I am doing everything I can to stay in touch with as many people as possible.”

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