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Friday, September 4, 2009

Hodes Shunning Town-Halls

Yesterday, Albert McKeon at the Telegraph took a swipe at Rep. Paul Hodes for his lack of public appearances during the August recess. Today, the paper's editorial board decided to get in on the fun:
Hodes has chosen to bypass the more traditional town-hall meetings in favor of these smaller, more selective forums. While technically open to the public, these sessions seem geared more to members, guests and residents of the chosen venues rather than an unrestricted exchange of ideas with constituents in a large auditorium or conference hall.

By contrast:

• Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank conducted his memorable session before more than 500 people at the Dartmouth Council on Aging building.

• Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill has hosted several town hall-style meetings, including one before an estimated 400 people at a Jefferson City middle school.

• And California Rep. Anna Eshoo attracted more than 1,000 constituents to a town-hall meeting at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.

Now few of these sessions would be categorized under the heading of civil discourse. On the contrary, some of them were downright ugly, and we've already condemned the actions of those participants whose sole purpose was to shout down those of a different opinion or disrupt these sessions with their boorish behavior.

But that's still no reason for Hodes, already an announced candidate for U.S. Senate next year, to avoid them. Surely, we would like to believe that the one-time assistant attorney general and special prosecutor is more than capable of holding his own before his constituents – as loud and verbally abusive as some might be.

It's not as if Hodes is a stranger to the concept. He was present for President Barack Obama's health-care town hall in Portsmouth last month, and he conducted one of his own shortly after being first elected in April 2007 at Milford Town Hall.

And it's pretty unlikely he will be able to run a senatorial campaign next year without taking part in what has become a New Hampshire political tradition.

As we said at the outset, we're disappointed by the congressman's decision not to schedule a single town-hall meeting on health care – a topic that has engaged voters like few others in a generation – during the August recess.

We don't know for certain whether Hodes came to this decision on his own or he's getting bad advice from his inner circle or party leaders in Washington.

Either way, for someone who prides himself on constituent service, his no-town-hall stragegy is a real head-scratcher.

Via the GraniteGrok guys, here is the Congressman attempting to defend his "public" schedule:

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