Indivisible groups in Minnesota focused initial bursts of political organizing on the state’s three Republican members of Congress, particularly the two who have not recently appeared in public back home.
Hundreds turned out to events that sought appearances by Rep. Jason Lewis of the Second Congressional District or Rep. Erik Paulsen of the Third. Both opted for “telephone town halls,” business tours or private meetings rather than general public meetings this year.
That’s been a point of contention for progressive groups and frustrated voters, who turned out in big numbers to a town hall by Minnesota’s other Republican in Congress, Rep. Tom Emmer of the Sixth District.
Lewis and Paulsen both told the Star Tribune they intend to hold town halls in the future.
Paulsen, in office since 2009, said he’s not surprised by the political outpouring of the early Trump era. He thinks it would have been similar if Democrat Hillary Clinton had been elected president. He said he’s held over 100 meetings throughout his congressional career, though it’s unclear how many were large public meetings as opposed to phone meetings or his smaller “Congress on Your Corner” events.
Paulsen’s critics insist the congressman has not held a formal town hall in several years. His office did not respond to repeated requests for clarification about when the last such event was held.
“In a time when there’s a lot of bombast and posturing and emotion, I’m focused on being productive and getting stuff done,” Paulsen said.
Lewis, a first-termer, said he’s open to holding an event. He said he believes many concerns raised by members of Indivisible and other groups are genuine, but suggested some are angling to make political points for the next election.
“I’ll be honest with you: I’m not looking forward to doing a town hall because it’s going to go great, and I’m not avoiding them because it’s going to go bad,” Lewis said.