The rough and tumble world of Beltway politics made its way to Dripping Springs Sunday.
By holding what amounted to a “ghost town hall” at Flores Mexican Restaurant, constituents within U.S. Rep. Roger Williams’ (R, TX-25) district expressed frustrations at their inability to contact him.
Williams did not respond to requests to attend the town hall. He instead attended a private meeting with the North Hays County Republicans at Church of the Springs in Dripping Springs.
For some, the lack of response equates to what they believe is a lack of representation by Williams for certain constituents.
Erin Zweiner, a spokesperson for a branch of Indivisible 25, a group of concerned members in Williams’ district, said one reason for the town hall concept came after many tried to contact Williams via email, social media and phone calls.
However, she says a response is usually a form letter stating the congressman’s schedule is “busy.”
“We used official channels and unofficial channels. We have requested town halls and more generic meetings and we don’t hear anything back,” Zweiner said. “That’s incredibly frustrating to not hear from someone who is supposed to be representing us.”
Additional motivation for the town hall meeting came after they discovered Williams was meeting the North Hays County Republicans. But instead of picketing outside of that town hall meeting, Zweiner said they created their own.
Their town hall meeting allowed constituents to pose questions to a cardboard cutout of Williams. A comedian at times offered “responses” that they felt Williams could give.
Zwiener said residents feel Williams’ district, which extends across 13 counties from Fort Worth to as far south as Hays County, is gerrymandered in a way for Williams “to avoid his constituents in the bluer part of Texas.”
Many also want to hear Williams’ position on topics such as the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, financial regulation and “holding (President Donald) Trump accountable,” Zweiner said.
Oak Hill resident Annie Soutter, who said she has tried to reach Williams 10 to 15 times, wanted to express her concerns regarding gender inequality. She said the lack of representation from Williams“disturbs her greatly.”
“I would like our representative to represent us regardless of which side of the aisle we sit on,” Soutter said.
Dripping Springs resident Connie Cuoco said she wanted to gather Willliams’ viewpoints on his votes on immigration, education and his feelings on healthcare.
But she felt all voices should be heard, “not just those in the Republican party.”
Those on the Republican side of the aisle said their meeting with Williams was scheduled in advance.
Wally Kenny, a Dripping Springs resident and president of the North Hays County Republicans, said the meeting with Williams had been set up for six weeks.
The meeting, which was private and not open to the media, was a question and answer session for members of the NHCR.
Kenny said the NHCR, which holds regular meetings with and without speakers, wanted to hear from their congressman. He claimed the NHCR can only “get him” twice a year to talk with them as his office is in Tarrant County. Kenny said that Williams will “meet with anybody.”
But he said concerns by those who were protesting were normal for the “side that loses.” He said many Republicans “felt the same way when Obama won.”
“It’s the spoils of war. Unfortunately, we won and they lost this one,” Kenny said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t work together and do things. We will and we do that.”
Dripping Springs resident Ann Child was surprised at the exclusive nature of the meeting. She wanted to thank Williams for co-sponsoring legislation she supports.
However, Child said she was denied entry. Child claims she has been a part of the NHCR meetings before and said the meeting was posted in the calendar section of another Dripping Springs publication for two weeks, which led her to believe it was a public meeting.
While she didn’t fall in line with protesters at the NHCR meeting, she felt all voices should be heard.
“Obviously he was voted in, so I can’t argue that,” Child said. “But there are lots of people who do care about these issues.”
When reached for comment, Vince Zito, Communications Director for Rep. Williams, said: “Congressman Williams believes in listening to his district and in doing so spends as much time as possible meeting with constituents and groups throughout his district. Congressman Williams will always humbly listen to the thoughts and concerns of all of his constituents — he always has and always will. And although he appreciates the invitation, he declines to attend the club meeting of the Dripping Springs Democratic Action and its associated groups. I think if you closely examine the statements and missions of these groups, it’s clear that civil, substantive discourse on issues is not their true agenda. Congressman Williams looks forward to continuing to fight for the issues that his constituents sent him to Washington to fight for, including: real tax reform, strengthening our military and rolling back the job killing Obama trademarks such as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank legislation.”
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The above story has been revised to include a statement from the office of Rep. Roger Williams.