Roberts plans speaking events but not town halls, frustrating some constituents

United States Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas. (February 2017 file photograph/The Capital-Journal)

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts will be back in the state next week for seven panels, roundtable discussions and meetings with membership groups, but he won’t be holding a town hall despite requests from some constituents.

 

Roberts, R-Kan., will make stops at the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, several chambers of commerce and rotary clubs and a roundtable with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., according to a news release from his office, drawing objection from issues-based advocacy groups, such as Topeka Indivisible and Indivisible KC.

“What if you’re not a business person? What if you’re a school teacher?” asked Leslie Mark, a board member for Indivisible KC.

Those groups have been directly urging Roberts to hold an open town hall, like those held by fellow Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran.

“We have a regular standing ask up there, ‘Please, please, please, will you have an town hall or open forum,’ ” said Leslie Mark, a board member for Indivisible KC.

Mark said her group — one of many under the national Indivisible umbrella — had been calling for a town hall since January through in-person demonstrations, phone calls and social media. The group’s Topeka counterpart has demonstrated outside Roberts’ Topeka office weekly for five weeks, said Brendan Beyer, an organizer for Topeka Indivisible.

“We will continue to put pressure,” Beyer said.

Beyer said the group would attempt to hold a town hall whether Roberts accepts or not.

Mark said she and others had been calling for Roberts to have a town hall “to give voters an opportunity to hear from and engage with their elected representatives, who are after all paid by the voters.”

Mark and Brandi Fisher, executive director of the state-wide advocacy group MainStream Coalition, said members wanted to express concerns about legislation and leadership to Roberts’ office. Fisher said she and other members had called Roberts’ office, personally, to weigh in on other issues, though the MainStream Coalition has been less active in asking for a town hall.

Several such advocacy groups, including the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, have been actively attending Moran’s town halls. The group’s executive director, David Jordan, said he would like to see Roberts and U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, KS-03, “take a page out of Senator Moran’s book.”

“As major policies like health care and taxes are debated in D.C., it’s incumbent on senators and members of congress to fully engage their constituents to see where they are,” Jordan said.

Moran was one of two senators who helped derail a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, though he later voted for bills aimed at repealing the law signed by former President Barack Obama.

It’s not clear from Roberts’ news release whether he intends to hold any town halls soon. His office didn’t return a request for comment.

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