Republican lawmakers say they're skipping town halls for 'safety reasons'

Friday, March 3, 2017
GOP lawmakers say they're skipping town halls for 'safety reasons'
Some Republican congressmen are facing angry voters in their districts, and say they're skipping their town hall meetings because of 'security concerns.'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some Republican congressmen are facing angry voters in their districts, concerned with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and other issues with the new president's agenda. They say security concerns are why they're cancelling town halls.

Congressman Randy Hultgren announced Friday afternoon that one of his staff members quit this week because she was worried about her safety at the office. The police chief in Campton Hills confirmed they have handled a few minor calls. There has been no violence at any of the town hall meetings held across the country, but the congressman says safety is the reason he won't hold town hall meetings.

Republicans have faced protests at home, including Hultgren. He has decided for now to meet with constituents only in small groups, not town halls.

"They get frustrated having individual time with me, or a small group meeting with me. They want to have something that is more theatrical. I just don't know if that is beneficial right now," he said.

Hultgren represents part of McHenry, Kane and Kendall counties.

"We just want to make sure that everybody is safe, that we have this respect in the process that we can listen from each other, learn from each other, disagree at times but with a level of respect," he said.

Although Hultgren used former congresswoman Gabby Giffords' shooting as an example, Giffords recently released her own response, saying politicians must face their constituents and hold town hall meetings.

Congressman Peter Roskam, who represents the far northwest and western suburbs, has also had protests in his districts. Instead of town halls, he's using phone meetings.

"Rather than having a meeting with 200 people that are essentially shouting at one another, I thought it was more helpful to meet with 18,000 people on the phone to have a wider range of opinion and much more feedback," he said.

The protests, for some, harken back to the early days of the Tea Party. Senator Dick Durbin, who met with Tea Partiers at the time, sold an old boxing quote to put it in perspective.

"They used to say something about Joe Lewis, the great heavyweight champion, they used to say something about his opponents: they can run but they can't hide. The same is true about members of Congress. You can avoid your constituents for some period of time, but ultimately they get the last word in the election," Durbin said.

Voters have criticized Republican lawmakers for shirking their duty to their constituents and continue to push for town hall meetings.

Experts said things will only get worse for lawmakers because soon they will start voting on laws, and voters will follow how their representatives are voting.