Source: Deseret News and KSL.com
Toward the end of the more than three hours Rep. Mia Love spent with small groups of constituents Tuesday, she attempted to explain why she wasn’t holding a traditional town hall meeting.
“I want you to know although there are people that are like you, that want to be able to have this dialog, there are some that don’t,” the Utah Republican told one of the groups gathered in her office’s conference room as police stood watch nearby.
“I’ve had somebody say, ‘We’ve signed your death certificate. You won’t see us coming,'” and shared personal information including the address of her family’s home on social media, she said.
“I just want you to know the realities of what you may not be hearing and why I have to be cautious not just to make sure that you are safe when you come to see me,” Love said.
Her comments came after Psarah Johnson joined several other members of the CD4 Coalition, a group affiliated with Utah Indivisible, in asking for a town hall meeting so more people could participate.
Love, who described Tuesday’s meeting as an “open house” that was not publicly advertised because it was intended only for 4th District constituents, hasn’t held a town hall meeting since last fall, according to her office.
In February, then-Utah GOP Chairman James Evans advised the state’s congressional delegation to delay holding town hall meetings because of “acts of intimidation and violence” by Democrats, including members of Utah Indivisible.
The warning came after now former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s raucous town hall meeting in Cottonwood Heights, where the audience jeered the then-chairman of the House Oversight Committee for not going after President Donald Trump.
Rob Anderson, who was elected to replace Evans as chairman of the state Republican Party in May, said telling the six-member, all-GOP delegation not to hold town hall meetings may have been an overreaction.
But Anderson said he understood Love’s concerns, noting he beefed up security at the recent convention of sometimes “contentious and cranky” delegates assembled in Provo to nominate the party’s choice for replacing Chaffetz in the 3rd District.
“It’s up the individual. If they want to hold a town hall meeting, I support that. I’m not encouraging town hall meetings. I think there are a number of ways you can get your message out,” Anderson said.
Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel for the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, said the group was “a little disappointed that she keeps on refusing to have town hall meetings with her constituents.”
Thomas said the group wasn’t aware of Tuesday’s event, which was originally scheduled from 1-3 p.m. but ended up lasting another hour to accommodate the more than 30 people who showed up.
“It just feels like she doesn’t want to face the voters on all those major issues her constituents are worried about,” he said, especially since the meetings occurred during the workday. “A lot more people are able to come to a town hall.”
Love sat down with several people at a time, fielding questions about her positions on a variety of issues, including health care, immigration and Trump’s actions as president.
“I can’t control his tweets. I’ve even responded to some just kind of like, ‘Ahh,'” Love said, noting she did not support Trump in last year’s election. She said the executive branch has “gotten way too powerful,” regardless of who is president.
There was some friction over whether Love would be willing to vote to impeach Trump if he were to fire the special counsel investigating his campaign’s ties to Russian interference in the election, Robert Mueller.
Love said she would not answer a hypothetical question, but called the timing of Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey amid the allegations about Russia “weird” and said the investigation was important.
“I’m not afraid to stand up,” she said, if the president does something she believes requires impeachment.
Matthew Tracy, also a member of the CD4 Coalition, interrupted Love repeatedly and called her position on impeachment a “dodge.” But he ended up telling her after the meeting he was impressed and posing for selfies with her.
“I said what I thought in there. I think Mia Love, she’s an interesting person. Honestly, actually, I like Mia. I don’t share her politics,” Tracy said. But he said while he appreciated their exchange, she should still hold a town hall meeting.
“You can do two things. We can all chew gum and walk at the same time. It’s not an either/or choice. We can do both,” Tracy said. He said a town hall meeting affords the opportunity to meet with a wider constituency, since the public is invited.
In her response to Johnson, Love mentioned the June shootings at a congressional softball team practice that seriously injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and the 2011 attack on then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona.
“There’s so much out there where it just takes one person out there to plant a seed in somebody’s mind to say it’s OK to go to a baseball field and shoot people,” Love said. “It’s not just me. It’s both sides of the aisle.”
Johnson, though, said town hall meetings are important because “a lot of people honestly can feel intimidated” meeting in a small group with a member of Congress. “They feel they’re dealing with minor celebrity.”