Northeast Ohio constituents holding town hall meetings without their GOP leaders

Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-23 19:05:37-05

Constituents of Rep. Jim Renacci and Sen. Rob Portman plan to hold separate “town hall” meetings Thursday evening, with or without their GOP leaders. 

Organizers for both public meetings said they were upset that Renacci and Portman did not grant requests for a public meeting during the congressional recess.

Cleveland-area residents plan to gather from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the St. James A.M.E Church to discuss the Affordable Care Act repeal as well as Portman’s recent cabinet votes and “his lack of accessibility.” 

Meanwhile District 16 residents led by the group Action Together Stark plan to meet at 6:30 p.m. at the 5710-5712 12 St. NW in Canton to give their input on the ACA appeal and replacement. 

Organizer Lorraine Wilburn said they've been pushing for an in-person town hall meeting for more than a month and have been calling and emailing the office inviting Renacci to their own town hall for more than a week. 

Renacci told News 5 that he does not plan to attend Thursday’s meeting. He said his schedule has been booked for months and he has another obligation in Cleveland Thursday night. 

"I am probably the most accessible representatives in Congress,” Renacci said in a phone interview. “I take phone calls. They're welcome to call me at any time. In fact that's the easiest if they want to set up something because I am out of town so much." 

Renacci said he has never been afraid of town halls and has done more than 100 such meetings in the past, although none since President Donald Trump took office.  

He said he would willing to do an in-person public meeting but could not say when because his schedule has kept him in Washington more than usual. He said he’s looking into doing a “tele-town hall” in the near future. 

Wilburn said they’re not interested in a call-in or streaming town hall. 

“They can pick and choose the questions they want to answer and that’s not what people are interested in they want to have the direct one-on-one with the constituents,” she said. 

A spokesperson for Renacci also provided the following statement: 

To date Congressman Renacci has held over 100 town hall meetings, all of which have been open to the public, including to the political organizations who have scheduled their own event tomorrow night to protest President Trump and to demonstrate their support for Obamacare, a law that a vast majority of 16th District residents strongly oppose.  While it's unclear if any of those who organized or are attending tomorrow night's event opted to attend any of the 100-plus town hall meetings that Congressman Renacci has already scheduled and hosted across our community, they will certainly be welcome to attend any of our town hall events in the future. 

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Portman’s office said he’s not trying to dodge constituents either: 

Rob won Ohio by 21 points because he is an independent voice who effectively represents the interests of all Ohioans.  He welcomes the increased engagement from his constituents, both on the Right and the Left, and will continue to hold a variety of events in Ohio, adding to the dozens he has already held this year, and 475 he held last year. The opinion of every constituent is valued.