Local voters who are upset with President Donald Trump’s administration want to speak with their local representative.
The voters said they have questions about lawmakers’ plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, along with questions about Trump’s immigration policies.
A group of about 100 citizens said they asked Republican Rep. John Rutherford to hold a town hall meeting while he was in town, but were told “no,” so they decided to take the town hall to his Jacksonville office in Southpoint.
They called it resistance recess and even had an empty chair available for Rutherford.
They said their top three issues are funding public schools, welcoming refugees into America and keeping the Affordable Care Act.
“I look for every way possible to interact with my constituents,” Rutherford said. “As sheriff, I did 106 town halls when we did Tasers, so absolutely I will be doing town halls. I love going out and meeting the public face to face, but this trip in, it just didn’t work.”
Dianne Larson, a Democrat who works with Rebuild the Hope, said she is optimistic that Rutherford will listen to all his constituents, but worries that he might not be bipartisan.
“I’m concerned because he’s new. I knew him as a sheriff, and I respected him as a sheriff,” Larson said. “My concern is that he’s new and that he is Republican and that he will just vote party line and not listen to us.”
A spokesperson said Rutherford has already been meeting one on one with constituents, and had several meetings scheduled before this week. Rutherford said he will use many approaches to interact with voters in his district.
“We are going to telecast town hall meetings,” Rutherford said. “We are going to do face-to-face town hall meetings. We’ll do emails, newsletters.”
In some states, town halls have become rowdy. In other cases, people protesting have said they want to hear from their elected officials during a one-week congressional recess.
“One of the things that amazes me is just how many people from the district show up at my Washington D.C. office just so they can talk to me,” Rutherford said. “I’m like, ‘Wow!’ I had no idea that many people went to D.C. to speak to their congressman. They keep me busy.”
Trump responded to the town halls this week, tweeting on Tuesday:
“The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”
Trump supporter Gary Snow said he believes that the town hall demand is just an anti-Trump protest and is not a platform to express concerns.
“The people of Jacksonville that voted for him, that supported him, we are with him,” Snow said. “We are going to attend these rallies. We are going to defend Donald Trump, and we are going to defend our Republican congressmen.”
The group protesting Thursday said they were told that one of the reasons why Rutherford declined a town hall meeting is because of his health. The congressman collapsed during his first week in Washington and spent a week in the hospital.
Rutherford told News4Jax that he’s back to about 85 percent now.
He said the Affordable Care Act will be repealed and replaced, but lawmakers will not just strip people’s insurance so they’re not covered.