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C.O. activists stage ’empty-chair town hall,’ call on Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer to hold in-person, unscripted event

Congresswoman's staff defends her outreach efforts to constituents

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- About two-dozen activists used an empty chair and the cardboard likeness of Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore., to stage an event Wednesday, symbolizing their call for an in-person town hall with the Fifth District congresswoman.

“So I am here to point out the fact that she has been unwilling to meet with us in person, in an in-person, unscripted town hall, like all of the other representatives -- Democrats, Republicans," event organizer Roger Sabbadini said.

During the gathering at the Deschutes Public Library, the event organizers asked questions, then answered them by quoting published statements from Chavez-DeRemer.

“Representative Chaves-DeRemer, I would like to know that you are truly representing me as one of your constituents," Gayle Stamler said. "I think it's really important --you have presented yourself as a moderate and I would like to know that it's true.”

In May, 50 constituents and community organizations signed a letter requesting a townhall. They wanted to challenge her yes vote on the Republicans' Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, which her opponents said would have cut federal programs and services, blocked student debt relief and added unnecessary work requirements to Medicaid and SNAP that take food assistance and health care from families, among other issues.

Stamler said, “We've been following how she votes. We want to reconcile the difference between what she says and sometimes what she does.”

NewsChannel 21 requested an interview with Rep. Chavez-DeRemer. A spokesperson responded with a statement, saying, “She's already hosted several town halls over the phone. reaching thousands of Oregonians with unscripted question and answer sessions.”

Chavez-DeRemer's office called the meetings accessible and transparent, adding that there have been over 150 meetings with Oregonians. The statement went on to say that her office has closed 400 casework requests and responded to 11,000 emails and letters from constituents.

But Sabbadini said he believes that on the phone vs. in person makes a big difference.

“And on those Zoom calls, they are mostly scripted, and questions are pre-assigned. sometimes in advance," he said. It's not the free exchange of ideas that you really need like in an in-person town hall."

This year, Rep. Andrea Salinas has held five in-person town halls and Sen. Ron Wyden has held 35.

A similar "empty-chair town hall" was held Tuesday in Oregon City, and another is planned Friday in Albany.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Dylan Anderman

Dylan Anderman is sports reporter for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Dylan here.


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