By 7:30 p.m. Friday night, a smiling cardboard cutout of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner was a little worse for wear, plastered with a sign saying “you’re fired,” wearing a hot pink “pussyhat” and surrounded by constituents eagerly taking selfies.
This was the aftermath of a so-called “with you or without you” town hall, a spectacle of political theater constituents organized after the junior senator refused to host the public town hall they were demanding. Armed with signs and pointed, well-researched questions, participants packed the gymnasium of Denver’s Byers Middle School to show the absent lawmaker their frustration and anger in the form of queries directed to his life-size facsimile.
It was the second such protest event against Gardner, who spent last week’s Congressional recess in Colorado but did not speak at any events open to the public. A similar but much smaller town hall demonstration was held in Fort Collins last Tuesday. The senator does not have any upcoming meetings with the public, but his office says a “telephone town hall” is in the works.
Gardner wasn’t the only state elected official conspicuously absent during the recess last week. Democrats U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette and Republican U.S. Rep Doug Lamborn did not hold town halls, either, with all but Lamborn out of the country. Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton made an appearance at a Democratic town hall in Paonia over the weekend.
Congress is in session in March, save a long weekend here and there. Tipton has a tele-town hall scheduled for sometime “within the next two weeks,” but details won’t be announced until Friday. Communications director Liz Payne says Tipton typically holds his town hall meetings in the spring, when the weather is more cooperative, and says, “We are working on getting those scheduled for the weeks when there are no votes in D.C.”
Bennet has no town hall, tele- or otherwise, scheduled for the coming month, and DeGette’s office says she is still nailing down her calendar. Lamborn’s office says he may hold an event in April.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis didn’t hold recess meetings, but is planning two back-to-back town hall meetings, in Boulder/Broomfield and then Fort Collins/Loveland, on March 12. Neither location has been announced.
Colorado Congressman Ken Buck agreed to meet with Trump critics during the break at an invite-only event at the Castle Pines Public Library last week to discuss the Affordable Care Act. The meeting was closed to the press, but Colorado Independent reporter Marianne Goodland was not turned away. Buck also held a tele-town hall last Thursday. He currently has no events on the books for March.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter held a “Government in the Grocery” event last Saturday in Thornton. Perlmutter also has “senior resource fair” scheduled for Friday, March 3 and a tele-town hall scheduled for Monday, March 13.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman used the break to kick off his Affordable Care Act “Listening Tour,” a series of meetings with healthcare professionals, patients and constituents across the state. He also plans to hold a series of tele-town halls starting in March, also focused on the ACA.
In response to public outcry for more face time with lawmakers, grassroots groups have created the open-sourced Town Hall Project, maps town halls other public events with members of Congress in each state. Check it out here.
In case you missed it, you can watch the entirety of Friday’s town hall below.
Photo credit: kidTruant, Creative Commons, Flickr
Correction: This story has been updated to include that U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton appeared at a Democratic town hall in Paonia over the weekend.