Mikie Sherrill was coming through loud and clear over the phone. Welcome to the reality of politics during a pandemic.
Rather than talking to a jam-packed room – the usual scene for a Sherrill town hall – the congresswoman from District 11 Monday night was addressing an unknown number of people in a telephone town hall.
She also had a number of health experts with her.
Sherrill, who was in her Montclair home, joked that she had theatened her four children with “no dessert” if they bothered her during the town hall.
Most of the questions, not surprisingly, were about the coronavirus.
Asked about providing help for small businesses, Sherrill cited work she did with Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, a Republican from Parsippany, to help small businesses qualify for federal aid.
A caller from Montclair said she felt very “isolated” being stuck at home.
Sherrill said she understood, explaining, “This is kind of difficult for people who are used to seeing people every day.” She urged people to take care of their own well-being and then to do such things as
“check in with your neighbor.”
And like many of her constituents throughout the district, the congresswoman said she’s been having trouble finding toilet paper, but not food.
In one of the few political questions, a man from Montville complained that Democrats are holding up a stimulus relief bill in the Senate because they want it to incorporate a “liberal agenda.”
Sherrill said any stimulus should take care of average people and not be used, for instance, to raise the pay of corporate CEOs.
Earlier in the evening, it was Tom Malinowski’s turn to “meet” residents electronically.
Malinowski says he feels “frustrated and isolated” working from home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like Sherrill, Malinowski, the freshman congressman from the 7th District, has held numerous town halls and similar gatherings since taking office 14 months ago.
But not now.
Presiding over an hour-long “tele-town hall,” also with medical experts, Malinowski said he is “unhappy” there is no drive-thru testing center for the virus in Somerset County, the center of his district. He said he has spoken personally to Gov. Phil Murphy about that.
Malinowski too was asked about the deadlock in the Senate over the virus stimulus package. He suggested Democrats are rightly concerned that the GOP-created bill would provide up to $500 billion to
corporations with “no strings attached.”
He said he agrees with fellow Democrats that much of the aid must go to individuals and not to “enrich the stockholders” of major corporations.
While it’s easy to forget in turbulent times, the presidential election is less than eight months away.
With the outcome of the virus uncertain, the congressman told one caller that he has sponsored legislation to allow voting by mail in all states.
As he put it, we can postpone the school year, concerts and the baseball season, but, “We can not postpone the November election.”