At least 150 Congressional District 8 residents braved the rain to march up the Southeast 56th Street hill to 8th District Rep. Dave Reichert’s Issaquah office Tuesday morning to protest what they saw as the congressman’s lack of availability for his constituents.
The protest was triggered by Reichert’s decision to hold a Facebook Live event with his constituents on Feb. 23, in which he answered pre-chosen questions in front of a camera at the KCTS studios in Seattle.
Protesters said that the filmed event was not good enough, and claimed that Reichert has refused both to meet with his constituents in person at his office and to answer their phone and email messages.
Neither Reichert nor his employees met with the protesters on Tuesday. Police told the group of constituents that they could not enter the parking lot of Reichert’s office.
“I’ve called several times about a variety of topics … I have not gotten any sort of call back or email response,” Christina Finley said.
Terri Lovato of Auburn, who helped to organize Tuesday’s march, said that she has “emailed Reichert on numerous occasions about numerous issues” and always waited weeks for a “pre-written, canned response.”
Some residents said that they had experienced very good treatment at Reichert’s office, but said that they were still concerned about the Congressman’s choice to do a Facebook Live interview.
“Reichert’s staff has been available and receptive to calls and questions. I did hear back when I asked questions about the Affordable Care Act replacement and have a letter … about his thoughts on the repeal and replacement,” Grady Brumbaugh told the Reporter in a Twitter message. “My word of advice to Reichert is that … he needs to be transparent and answer questions openly.”
Cathy Wittel said that Reichert has always made himself open in the past, but surmised that Reichert’s recent change in behavior was due to a fear of owning up to a pro-Trump voting record.
“This is the first time he has chosen not to appear in person,” Wittel said. “He doesn’t want to answer questions about why he’s supporting [Trump’s policies].”
“My team and I have always made every effort to make ourselves available, including proactively arranging meetings with groups with opposing views, scheduling Facebook Live events, holding teletown halls, attending public events, and responding to constituent mail and phone calls,” Reichert told the Reporter in an email.
Since the beginning of the year, the Record has received nine letters to the editor criticizing Reichert’s voting record and availability, and two letters in support of Reichert. The Issaquah Reporter, a sister publication, has received four anti-Reichert letters and one letter in support.
Constituents said that they have quite a few issues to discuss with the congressman in the wake of some of President Trump’s recent actions and statements, including the immigration ban and the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Julie Reed, who marched with her husband, Ray, said that her biggest concerns were the release of Donald Trump’s tax returns, health care and the “influence of Russia” on American politics and government.
“I’m here because Dave Reichert is my representative and I want him to represent and at least listen to my point of view and my concerns,” Reed said.
The protesting constituents have suggested that Reichert hold a town hall meeting to be able to interact with those he represents face-to-face and hear their concerns. They felt that an event held during working hours on a social media site that not everyone may belong to was not encompassing enough for all residents.
“I want a town hall,” Elaine Chase told the Reporter via Twitter. “He should come listen to us face to face.”
Stephen Wilhelm, who held a sign comparing Reichert’s number of town halls with those of other Congress members from Washington state, said that he was “confident there haven’t been any town halls [with Rep. Reichert] since 2010.”
“Congressman Reichert is not doing his job,” Wilhelm said.
“I just would like to be able to have a decent kind of conversation with him … to understand where he’s coming from,” Finley said.
Lovato said that Reichert is alienating certain groups of his constituents by using Facebook as his medium, pointing out that many people, in particular senior citizens who may be concerned about their health care, are not Facebook users.
Constituents also took umbrage with the fact that the Facebook Live questions were pre-chosen.
“I fear that a Facebook Live event … allows Rep. Reichert to strictly control the comments and questions he chooses to respond to,” Jay Thaler said in an email. “It reeks of becoming a scripted event rather than actually seeking comment from his constituents.”
Reichert said that based on past experiences, there is little value in a town hall meeting, and only the potential for danger for those involved.
“Over the years, town halls have disintegrated into shouting matches with no productive results and in some cases put attendees and staff at risk,” he stated.
Reichert wants everyone to contact him if they have something to say.
“I encourage anyone who would like to meet with me or my staff to contact my office any time,” he said.