The signs said, “Where is Kevin?” and “Make America sane again.”
The chant repeated in call-and-answer style, “Kevin, do your job!”
Between 100 and 150 people gathered in front of the DoubleTree Hotel on Rosedale Highway Tuesday night to ask their congressman, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, why he had time to attend a GOP fundraiser at the hotel yet declined an invitation to participate in a town hall discussion scheduled for Wednesday.
“Kevin just got re-elected. Why is it so important for him to attend a party fundraiser? You think it would be more important for him to speak to his constituents,” said Mary Anne Stiern-McLay, a retiree from the Bakersfield Police Department.
The House majority leader, McCarthy was to give an “inside look” at Washington policy and politics at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser. The evening’s keynote speaker was to be Rep. Devin Nunes, the Tulare Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team.
The fundraiser was the largest local GOP event of the year, according to organizers.
Wednesday morning, McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said, “Congressman McCarthy is pleased to support our local Republican Party in its annual fundraising event to promote our principles and solutions facing our community, state, and nation.
“The congressman has a previously scheduled charitable event” Wednesday evening, Sparks said.
Nunes also came under fire from protest organizers for not holding town hall meetings. Republicans across the nation are coming under criticism for their party’s renewed efforts to dismantle Obamacare, among other things. Jack Langer, Nunes’ communications director, told The Bee the congressman’s last public forum was in August, when nearly 1,000 people gathered in Tulare to discuss water needs in the central San Joaquin Valley.
Tuesday’s gala left many at the rally wondering where McCarthy’s priorities lie.
Sloan Holmes, who attended the demonstration with a friend, said her son had a brain tumor when he was 12. Years later as an adult, he received a letter from his insurance company informing him that his lifetime benefits had run out.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed during the Obama administration, it prohibited the practice by insurance companies of denying individuals coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
“That was important to us,” Holmes said. “It was a relief that my son could not be denied coverage.”
The United States is the richest, most advanced nation in the world, Holmes said. “We should be able to take care of our own.”
People are fearful, said Jesse Aguilar, a high school teacher who spoke at the rally. They see the direction the country is taking, he said, as “an attack on those folks least able to defend themselves. And that is ominous.”
The day before his inauguration as president, Donald Trump spotted McCarthy at a luncheon. “Where’s Kevin?” he asked. “There’s my Kevin.”
A sign at Tuesday night’s protest asked another question: “Whose Kevin are you?”