With only a few days left until members of Congress return home for a weeklong recess in their districts, many California representatives are being pressured by groups opposing President Donald Trump to hold town hall meetings with their constituents.
But despite the mounting agitation, dozens of California Congress members have neither held nor scheduled any kind of town hall since their election in November.
That avoidance is understandable, given the recent reception House members have gotten at town hall events. Rep. Jason Chaffetz drew a crowd in his Utah district last week that resembled Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater.
@RepMcClintock escorted out of theater by police. @KQEDnews https://t.co/3qMSoPoSVq
The town hall demonstrations have been buoyed by groups aligning themselves with Indivisible, a collection of former Democratic congressional staffers who published a guide “for resisting the Trump agenda.” The guide offers instructions for organizing and engaging at town halls, borrowing a tactic that proved successful for Tea Party groups during the first Obama administration.
The push from local chapters of the group has been bipartisan, urging congressional Republicans in Orange County to hold public meetings, and calling for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s “no” vote on the nomination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Some California members of Congress have been holding town halls in more protected or predictable formats. When Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a CNN Town Hall, she did so in the comfort of a TV studio in New York (3,000 miles from her San Francisco district) with a moderator and pre-screened questions.
Nancy Pelosi: “What the President did and the manner in which he did it has not made us more safe” #PelosiTownHall
Other members have opted for Tele-Town Halls, taking questions from constituents over the phone.
In some cases, the calls are set up in ways that don’t exactly encourage robust participation. For example, if you’d like to participate in a Tele-Town Hall with Antelope Valley Republican Steve Knight, you’ll have to get through a multistep verification process just for the opportunity to join an unscheduled, in-progress conference call.
Knight’s website notes that “Due to this year’s heavy legislative schedule, we regret that we are unfortunately unable to hold in-person town halls in California at this point in time.”
But his office responded that they will actually be holding a town hall on the morning of March 4. So far, they’ve provided no further details.
Rep. Darrell Issa has a similar message on his website, which says the congressman “will call you directly when the town hall meeting is beginning.”
Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that of the 11 sitting California representatives targeted in the 2018 midterms by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, only two (Knight and Sacramento County Rep. Ami Bera) have held or scheduled a town hall since the November election.
Here’s a list of town hall meetings already held or planned by California members of Congress. We’ll update the list as more events are announced.