One of the persistent Democratic criticisms of Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr. has been his reluctance to interact with the public – unfiltered.
This was a big issue last fall given the fact that then Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski held many “town halls” in which people raised their hands and asked whatever they wanted.
Kean held no such meetings during the campaign and was also averse to making his campaign schedule public.
This criticism failed to turn the election. Kean beat Malinowski in a newly-configured CD-7 by almost 9,000 votes.
Now that he’s in Congress, a group called “Tuesdays with Tom Kean Jr.” is continuing to dog him online and sometimes in person. One of their points is that Kean should meet constituents in a public setting.
This week, Kean did just that – sort of.
The congressman’s Facebook page on Wednesday included a message saying that more than “2,700 residents from six counties joined our telephone town hall last night. I answered a dozen questions and administered poll questions to hear from you directly on key issues.”
He cited a poll about expanding “one-seat rides,” or direct train service to Manhattan on the Raritan Valley line. Not surprisingly, most who answered wanted a one-seat ride. Wonders never cease.
Kean also thanked those who joined the call, adding that, “It is clear that affordability, infrastructure. innovation and safety are top of mind for many of us in New Jersey.”
All this is well and good, but there is some mystery here.
Just who was invited to the town hall?
The congressman’s Facebook page said nothing about the telephone town hall until it was over.
As for his congressional website, the latest press release was on March 21 about an art competition.
Many critics, commenting on Kean’s social media pages, complained that the town hall was not publicized in advance.
No press release was distributed, nor were CD-7 voters notified any other way. (Full Disclosure: I am a resident of CD-7).
An email and phone call to Kean’s office, asking about the town hall, and whether an audio of it will be posted, has not been returned.
Defenders of the congressman point out that many politicians – Phil Murphy among them – do not hold town halls.
In fairness, Murphy has not held a public town hall so far in his second term, but he did in his first term; I went to at least one of them.
The political issue here for the congressman’s critics is that Kean apparently held a telephone town hall, but did not inform the general public.
So, who was told about it?
If there’s a simple misunderstanding here, the congressman’s office should clarify things.