Progressive group spurs battle of the town halls

Congressman Steve Knight listens to constituent questions as attendees raise green paper in agreement during a town hall at the Rancho Santa Susana Community Center in Simi Valley on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Philip Germain has been waiting for Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) to hold a town hall in Santa Clarita for months.

Germain, chair of CA25 United for Progress and a College of the Canyons student, said he called the congressman’s office repeatedly asking for a local version of the town halls Knight held in Palmdale in March and Simi Valley in April.

According to Germain, Knight never called him back.

This spurred the organization’s chair to host his own meeting on Friday, June 2, setting up a time and venue and inviting Knight to come. He said Knight still did not call him back.

“All he would have had to do is show up,” Germain said of Knight. “He’s chosen not to show up.”

Megan Dutra, Knight’s Communication Director, said the congressman only hosts his own events.

“Steve Knight does his own town halls to interact with his constituents,” Dutra said to The Signal.

Not  getting a response, Germain then decided to hold an “adopt a district” town hall meeting, inviting other Congress members from surrounding areas to host United for Progress’ event instead.

Judy Chu, a Democrat representing the 27th district in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, took Germain up on his offer.

“Judy Chu has proven herself to be a great member of Congress,” Germain said. “She has not said one thing and (then) voted another on a pertinent issue.”

In a statement to The Signal, Chu said she accepted United for Progress’ invite because she believes it is important for constituents to be engaged and informed about what happens in D.C.

“As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to talk to the American people about the major issues facing our country,” Chu said in the statement. “I look forward to sharing updates on the important topics we are discussing in Congress, such as healthcare and the environment.”

According to Germain, Chu is going out of her way to help the 25th district and said he does not feel Knight lives up to his campaign promises of being accessible to constituents.

“I’m not saying this based on party, I’m saying this based on character,” the progressive group’s chair said.

These efforts were spurred primarily by Knight’s vote in favor of the American Health Care Act on May 4, the House Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“This is a pretty contentious time in the country and in our district,” Germain said. “We need to know what is going on in our government. It’s a member of Congress’ duty to represent the American people.”

This type of event is not the first of its kind. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, a Democrat, adopted Rep. John Faso’s constituents in a neighboring district in early May, The Hill reported.

Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona announced plans to do the same in Congresswoman Martha McSally’s district days after.

Rep. Mark Pocan, the vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will be adopting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s district in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and reported saying other caucus members were planning similar events.

Four days after United for Progress announced their event, Knight’s office released a statement announcing a town hall of his own scheduled for the day before Chu’s.

“I would not be surprised if this was out of spite,” Germain said.

Knight’s event will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Canyon High School on June 1, which he said he is looking forward to.

“I have appreciated the dialogue and input from residents of Simi and Antelope Valleys and I’m looking forward to the same tomorrow from Santa Clarita families,” Knight said in a statement to The Signal Wednesday.

“We have many important issues before Congress right now including health care, national security and tax reform. Knowing the views of my constituents helps me serve their interests better every day.”

Germain said the time and location of Knight’s event is inconvenient, as many people will be in school or at work or may have trouble commuting in traffic to Canyon Country.

If he has time after he gets out of class, Germain said he’ll try to make it to Knight’s event.

United for Progress’s event will be held on Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m. at 20880 Centre Point Parkway at the Activities Center.

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