Fed-up opponents of Rep. Devin Nunes are tired of waiting for their congressman to hold a town hall meeting in his district, so they’re holding one without him.
Billed in a flyer as “People’s Town Hall For a Better Future,” the meeting will be 6 to 8 p.m. April 19 at the Ponderosa lecture hall of the College of the Sequoias in Visalia.
Nunes was invited to be there, but his staff told a town hall organizer that he has a scheduling conflict. In addition, he won’t send a staff member in his place, according to the organizer.
Anthony Ratekin, Nunes’ chief of staff, said he would not comment or agree to be interviewed by Bee reporter Lewis Griswold because Griswold visited Nunes’ Tulare neighborhood last month for a story about how his neighbors and friends felt about Nunes’ turn in the national spotlight.
The meeting in Visalia is being arranged by a group called Central Valley Indivisible and is being sponsored by Together We Will Fresno/Central Valley and Health Access CA, said organizer Sophia DeWitt of Fresno.
“We are fed up,” she said. “We want a congressman who represents all of the district and tries to understand the viewpoints of everyone in the district.”
Nunes, a Republican from Tulare, represents the 22nd Congressional District that includes Tulare, Visalia, Clovis and part of Fresno.
He has been in the national news over his handling of a House Intelligence Committee probe of possible Russian attempts to influence the presidential election and recently recused himself from the investigation.
DeWitt said the town hall organizers live in the 22nd Congressional District. None of them are planning to run against Nunes in 2018, but they are looking for someone to support, she said.
Across the country, Republican members of Congress have largely been avoiding town hall meetings.
DeWitt said Nunes said on radio station KMJ that he would not go to town hall meetings “because he did not want to give people a ‘YouTube gotcha moment.’ ”
That’s the wrong approach to take, DeWitt said.
“He chose to run for Congress,” she said. “One of the main jobs is to engage with your constituents. … If he has the courage of his convictions, he should be able to stand in front of his constituents.”
The topics of the meeting will be affordable, quality health care, immigration and government transparency and accountability, the announcement said.
The meeting has been in the works for about a month, DeWitt said.
It’s unclear when Nunes last held a town hall meeting. In August, a large public gathering arranged by Nunes on the topic of water was held in Tulare.