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New Jersey voters sent four new Democrats to Congress last fall and none of them should follow 2nd-term Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s furtive approach to constituent engagement.
Or in Gottheimer’s case, disengagement.
Efforts to encourage/beg/prod Gottheimer to host a town hall and take questions from voters in his district have thus far proven unsuccessful. But not for lack of trying.
Josh Gottheimer just won’t do it.
So last night, fed up voters in Gottheimer’s North Jersey district hosted a town hall without him. Over 100 people showed up and shared the questions they would have asked the elusive Congressman.
I wasn’t there but I’d bet question #49 drew rousing applause.
Q49: You have more than 100 people here to ask questions on a Monday night. Are you going to take the fact that people have shown up and take these questions seriously? Will you tell us what you think and answer the questions posed to you? This makes us feel like you don’t care.
Or how about question #7:
Q7: Will you release a statement opposing the Meadowlands Power Plant and stand up for the health and safety not just of Bergen County, but the whole region?
Cathy Brienza lives in Gottheimer’s district. She founded JOLT Ridgewood and helped organize last night’s event.
“Our groups worked hard to get Congressman Gottheimer elected,” Ms Brienza told InsiderNJ. “He has no problem appearing frequently in the media yet he has a problem having a public dialogue with his constituents.”
Doing a town hall from time to time seems like a non-negotiable part of elected office. So why won’t Gottheimer do it?
“He cited ‘bad actors and radicals’ as a reason for not having town halls, which is an insult to his constituents and was proven unequivocally false last night,” Ms Brienza told InsiderNJ. “Those who ran and attended this Town Hall are dedicated citizens who deserve a public dialogue with the Congressman.”
And you know what makes it all really ironic and, well… what’s that word I’m looking for?!
“It is hypocritical and unjustifiable that he challenged Scott Garrett on precisely this issue,” Ms Brienza said, citing Gottheimer’s predecessor’s own penchant for dodging things like town halls.
I asked around and it turns out, several of NJ’s Congressional newbies have done multiple town halls already including Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill.
“Democracy demands accountability,” Ms Brienza said, settling the matter. “Elected officials make a commitment to engage with their public.”
Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster.