Kiki Wells looked at a cardboard cut-out of Rep. Devin Nunes on Wednesday, and told it her concerns about his support of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“I want to remind everyone that this is about xenophobia … Trump’s (travel) ban, the wall, Nunes’ support of that, is immoral,” she said, looking at a paper replica of the embattled congressman. “So Devin – flat Devin – do something about it.”
Amid national controversy, Nunes, R-Tulare, who heads the House Select Intelligence Committee, skipped the event held at Fresno State, which was hosted by the Women’s Huddle of Fresno and focused on immigration, education and healthcare.
Organizers say the congressman declined several invitations, and that his staff said he would later reply with a letter in the mail.
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“We aren’t waiting. We can’t wait for our medication refills. Our rent checks can’t wait, nor can our insurance payments, all while Congressman Nunes attends fundraisers and out-of-state town halls,” said Tessa Wells, an organizer of the event. “We feel these topics are too important, and that the citizens of Fresno deserve a space to discuss the issues affecting their day-to-day lives and get some answers. The congressman thinks he won’t be held accountable if he’s not around, and we plan to prove him wrong.”
In April, Nunes did not attend a similar town hall-style event in Visalia, and later called the organizers “left wing” activists.
Nunes’ absence perpetuates criticisms that he is avoiding the public, and is not rightly serving his San Joaquin Valley constituents amid scrutiny regarding the U.S. probe of Russia’s interference of the 2016 election. Nunes has kept a low profile since he recused himself from that investigation, after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating Nunes himself for revealing classified information.
“He does not hold regular town hall meetings to meet with his constituents, and I am informed that he sends his deepest regrets that he is unable to attend,” Dr. Mallory Kramer, a surgeon with UCSF Fresno who moderated Wednesday’s event, said with sarcasm to much applause and laughter. “He unfortunately had to recuse himself from attending this event because he’s too busy not investigating the Kremlin.”
Fresno residents took turns voicing their concerns to the Nunes’ cutout, and to a video camera that will be sent to his office.
The event came one day after a video was made public of Nunes at a private dinner fundraiser in Tulare last month, where he said that “Democrats don’t want an investigation into Russia,” and that it is a ploy to justify Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
“What good is it to call (Nunes’) office and record our comments and our position on things? Who holds him accountable for receiving this contact from his constituents – the people that we have empowered him to represent?” said Stuart McFeeters, who teaches at Fresno State and Clovis Community College.
Kathy Woods, who works for the Madera County Office of Education, said Nunes has replied to three different questions of her’s with identical responses.
“Literally three letters that say the same thing,” she said. “I’m concerned that my representative has a simple answer to my complex concerns about education.”
Andrew Janz, a prosecutor with the Fresno County District Attorney’s office, plans to run against Nunes in the 22nd Congressional District election in 2018. Janz was at Wednesday’s event, but said he wasn’t there to campaign.
“I’m here to listen. I want to make sure all your voices are heard,” Janz said. “You guys have not been listened to for the past 10 or so years.”
Nunes’ office did not respond to The Bee’s request for comment.