If a senator hosts a town hall, but it isn’t public, and those who attend are invite-only, is it really a town hall? Sen. Joni Ernst has us wondering just that. Recently, Ernst announced her 99-county tour in her hometown of Red Oak. This time it was a closed-door, invite-only event. Her campaign website says, “The 99-county tour across Iowa gives me the opportunity to hear Iowans’ concerns, ideas, and questions firsthand and to work to translate that feedback into actions in Washington.”
When her friends and neighbors in Red Oak saw her around town, we were respectful of her privacy and did not approach her to discuss issues that concern us. We planned to wait until her town hall to share our “concerns, ideas, and questions.” However, we did not have that opportunity. If Joni can’t face her friends and neighbors in Red Oak in a public town hall, which has been her tradition since taking office, how can we count on her to represent our voices in the senate?
It’s disappointing that Ernst is having closed-door meetings, which send the message that only certain voices matter. This is not the message she should be sending. Nor is it the best way to serve as one of Iowa’s two senators. Hopefully, Sen. Ernst will have a change of heart and open the doors of her town halls to all. She represents Iowans and would do well to listen to us.