Walden slates town hall sessions

After an 11-month pause, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden will kick off a series of open town hall sessions across the region Jan. 18. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, will kick off a series of town hall meetings Jan. 18, the first open forums held by the longtime lawmaker in 11 months.

The last time Walden held an open-invitation town hall meeting was in February 2018 in Gilliam County.

Since then, Walden has held three telephone town hall sessions, said Justin Discigil, his communications director.

Discigil said Walden stopped the open town halls nearly a year ago because they were being interrupted by some members of the political action group called Indivisible.

Indivisible is a progressive advocacy organization designed to “resist the Trump agenda,” according to its website.

“Groups like Indivisible really weaponized these town halls,” said Discigil.

He said Indivisible provided scripts and guidebooks and “encouraged people to attend and take advantage of these open meetings, and it often times manifested itself in people shouting down others with opposing views.”

Discigil said Walden was worried that the town halls, under those circumstances, didn’t provide “a productive discussion.”

“Frankly it scared some people off. People talked to us afterwards and said that was really uncomfortable,” said Discigil.

He said Walden has not changed his town hall meeting agenda.

“There wasn’t a policy shift. In this day and age there are a dozen ways to interact with voters, including telephone town halls, where we reached thousand and thousands of people who wanted to talk to Greg,” said Discigil.

Walden, who has held Oregon’s 2nd Congressional seat since 1998, defeated Democratic challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the general election last November, 56 percent to 34 percent.

Molly Woon, communications director for the Oregon Democratic Party, said halting the open town halls was Walden’s way of “trying to hide from his record.”

“I am sorry he finds answering to his constituents to be disruptive,” said Woon. “It is unfortunate they feel that way about a group of engaged citizens.”

“Certainly, I think it is surprising and raises eyebrows that he had decided, post-election, to finally make public appearances in the district after being missing in action,” said Woon.

After the first town hall Jan. 18 in Grants Pass, Walden will swing across 16 counties in his vast Oregon district. The tour will include a stop in Malheur County Jan. 21 for a 2:30 p.m. session at Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario.

Walden will finish the town hall circuit Jan. 24 in The Dalles.

“This is the start of a new Congress and a new year and Greg feels it is important to start the new year by hearing from the people on the ground,” said Discigil.

Walden said in the press release announcing the town halls he is “looking forward to getting together with people on the ground and hearing your concerns and ideas and suggestions about this new session of Congress.”

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.