A small group of Triangle activists and constituents gathered in front of U.S. Representative George Holding’s office yesterday to deliver a simple message: he’s failing. In the form of a fake report card, they gave the Republican representative a bright red “F” for his track record on issues related to health care, the economy, special interests, and Internet privacy. Holding did earn high marks
one category, though: hiding from constituents.
For months, constituents from Holding’s district, which represents part of Wake County, have been imploring the lawmaker to hold a public town hall. Holding, like many of his Republican colleagues in Congress (including North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr), has declined to host or take part in town halls. Why? Holding doesn’t think that the public forums are real town halls.
“These are opportunities to protest,” he told the N&O. “I don’t think it’s proper to treat these as what folks would think of as a genuine town hall.”
Unfortunately for Holding, he represents constituents who want to talk to him, like seventy-year-old Raleigh resident Michael Eisenberg.
“He’s my representative,” said Eisenberg, who added that he has tried unsuccessfully to meet with the representative before. He thinks the demonstrations in front of the offices of state politicians and increased vigilance is starting to get to them. “He knows we’re here, and so do Burr and so do Tillis. The comments have changed.”
After speaking outside, a small group of constituents walked to Holding’s office to ask for a meeting with him and for him to hold a public town hall. An employee on Holding’s constituent services team brought the group to a small room to listen to their concerns. He said he did not know why Holding has not held a town
but said he would pass their message along.
“One of the reasons we’re coming today is we think it’s extremely urgent that representative Holding come out and actually meet face-to-face with his constituents in a public town hall meeting,” said forty-six-year-old Chuck Tryon, who lives in the Triangle. “I know he’s said some things that suggest that he’s not really wanting to do that, but I think it matters a great deal to look your constituents in the eye in a public forum and to be publicly accountable to the votes that you hold and you take.”
Holding’s refusal to hold a town hall could have political consequences. His seat is one of about eighty that will be targeted by Democrats in the 2018 midterm election, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already seizing on his poor town-hall track record. According to a clock posted on a website paid for by the DCCC, Holding has not held a town hall in 1,657 days.
But that’s not for a lack of opportunity. Recently, the Indivisible Triangle Daily Call to Action group held a public town hall in Coats, which Holding was invited to but did not attend. To account for the representative’s absence, the group propped a picture of Holding falling asleep on an empty chair.
Even the N&O weighed in on Holding’s refusal to face his constituents in the flesh. In an editorial, the paper scolded the “incurious” politician for his position on town halls: “A public servant has an obligation to serve the public, and that means in large part hearing what they have to say, particularly those who disagree with the party line Holding so obediently follows. But, Holding is a classy guy who doesn’t want to be ruffled by protest. By golly, if he’d been around all that tea wouldn’t have been wasted in Boston.”