Williamson County town hall goes on without congressman

WilCo Indivisible invited Rep. John Carter to a town hall, he declined the invitation
WilCo Indivisible invited Rep. John Carter to a town hall, he declined the invitation (KXAN Photo)

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Many republican lawmakers have been skipping out on a tradition that usually happens during the legislative break: town hall meetings with constituents. Recent town halls nationwide have led to confrontations with lawmakers, specifically Republicans.

Felicia Miyakawa organized the event, saying she felt compelled to get more politically active after the election.

“No, no, other than voting regularly, I have never been this involved. This is a new thing for me!” said Miyakawa. “We have the right to feel heard and we don’t feel heard.”

She’s part of Indivisible, a national movement aimed at giving communities tools to organize and influence members of Congress.

“We hope everyone will understand we’re real people with real concerns and we did not get bused here from another state, and we’re not getting paid,” said Miyakawa.

She and others invited Representative John Carter who serves Williamson County. His declined the invitation, citing prior engagements.

Communications Director Corry Schiermeyer told KXAN:

The Congressman, as Chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, is on the southern border of Texas this week with Senator Cornyn, other members of the Senate, members of the House, and today Speaker Ryan. This was a great opportunity to see firsthand the challenges our border patrol agents face in securing our border. This experience allows members, that may not know about the realities along our border, to see what actually takes place. It is imperative we provide our border agents the tools necessary to succeed in their mission in securing our border and keeping us safe.”

If he had attended the town hall, constituents who showed up would have asked him about health care. Abby Brody is one of them. She lost her 23-year-old daughter last year to a rare and serious illness.

“She died unfortunately in October 2015,” said Brody. “I found a lump in my breast the same month, and my husband had a heart attack the following month. Things happen to people. I’m terrified now the Affordable Care Act is at risk.”

Brody says her insurance plan expires in June and that she also has a preexisting condition. “As a breast cancer survivor, that’s terrifying for me, it’s bankruptcy or death. And I’m not alone,” said Brody.

Communications director of the Travis County Republican Party, Andy Hogue, says he’s in favor of more town halls as long as the intentions are honest. “I think overall it’s good, as long as we’re being civil, as long as we’re obeying the law, as long as we’re actually communicating and not just yelling or causing trouble, it’s overall good for our country and I welcome it,” said Hogue.

Hogue says his party has also been stood up in the past by Democratic lawmakers.

“As long as we have that dialogue on both sides of the equation I think it’s better for the republic in general,” said Hogue.

Constituents of Congressman Bill Flores also held a town meeting in Pflugerville, which he did not attend. Flores’ office said it was due to a scheduling conflict.

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