Politics & Government

Some SC congressmen won’t be in town for their town halls

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson speaks to members of the 742 Support Maintenance Company in the S.C. National Guard during a deployment ceremony at Eagle Aviation Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 in West Columbia, S.C.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson speaks to members of the 742 Support Maintenance Company in the S.C. National Guard during a deployment ceremony at Eagle Aviation Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 in West Columbia, S.C. online@thestate.com

Voters in South Carolina’s 2nd District will have a chance to ask their congressman direct questions Wednesday — as long as they have phone service.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, is hosting a phone-in town-hall meeting at 6:45 p.m. for constituents in his district, which includes Lexington County and part of Richland.

At a time of occasionally raucous in-person town halls across the country, some members of Congress are looking for new ways to reach voters.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, held a phone-in town-hall meeting for voters Tuesday, based on a pre-existing list of people who have called his 3rd District office with concerns.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, held a Facebook Live town hall on Tuesday. Graham also will hold an in-person town-hall meeting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Clemson University.

Residents in the 2nd District can take part in Wilson’s call-in town-hall meeting Wednesday if they sign up online at vekeo.buzz/2lvaxTl by noon. Callers will identify themselves and their topic to a screener before being patched through to Wilson.

“This ensures we reach constituents from across the district and take questions on a wide range of issues,” said Wilson spokeswoman Leacy Burke. “Participants pose their questions directly to the congressman.”

Other members of the S.C. delegation have charged into the in-person town-hall fray.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford held a joint town-hall meeting in Mount Pleasant on Feb. 18, and Scott held another one in North Charleston a week later. Sanford is planning another town-hall meeting this Saturday in Beaufort.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, held a “coffee with your congressman” event in Florence last week. That event was split into two sessions to accommodate the number of people who showed up.

Instead of town-hall meetings, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, is focusing on holding one-on-one constituent meetings in his 4th District, his office said. Gowdy also plans a tele-town hall the week of March 20.

The state’s lone congressional Democrat — U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia — held a listening session on the Affordable Care Act in Columbia Feb. 18 with the S.C. Hospital Association.

Gibbs Knotts, chairman of the political science department at the College of Charleston, said politicians may be smart to avoid in-person town halls right now. There is the potential for blowback from constituents angry about actions by the new Trump Administration or proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Knotts said.

“In this day and age, one possible strategy is to let it cool down a little bit, and come back once we have more sense of what’s going to happen with a Trump Administration,” Knotts said.

At the same time, members of Congress don’t want to be seen as trying to avoid voters. “In general, this stuff can fester,” Knotts said. “It’s good to let people go out and have a chance to share those feelings.”

Wilson spokesperson Burke said the Republican congressman’s decision to do a town hall via phone was logistical. Wilson spent Congress’ Presidents Day break out of the country on a trip for the House’s Armed Services Committee.

The phone-in meeting “also gives people the convenience to join the town hall from their location and lets the congressman speak with residents of Aiken, Barnwell, Orangeburg and the Midlands at the same time,” Burke said.

HOW TO TALK TO JOE WILSON

If you have a question for 2nd District U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, or just want to listen in, sign up online at vekeo.buzz/2lvaxTl by noon Wednesday. You will receive a call on the number that you provide at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.

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