Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) has not held a town hall in her district in 543 days, yet she managed to find the time to jet off to Texas this past congressional recess for a glitzy Republican retreat with Speaker Paul Ryan, big-money donors, and Republican pollsters.
At the retreat, Walters listened to fellow Republicans promote the flailing tax bill, and heard from Ryan’s staff and Republican pollsters “about the path to keeping the majority in the fall,” according to the Texas Tribune.
It would appear Walters put listening to a Republican pollster in Wisconsin ahead of listening directly to her own California constituents. These type of priorities may help explain why Walters is “facing serious competition in her re-election campaign.”
Two years ago, Walters had a much different attitude. At the time, she said, “I think it’s really important for members of Congress to be in their district and talk to their constituents and hear what their constituents have to say.”
But since she made this statement, Walters has gone out of her way to ingratiate herself with Rep. Ryan. Walters has voted in line with Ryan 99 percent of the time as of the start of the current administration. The so-called importance of listening to her constituents seems to have diminished significantly as Walters takes advantage of opportunities to wine and dine with other Republicans like Ryan.
Hints of Walters’ attitude toward her own district were present before this event. In April 2017, while touting her support for Obamacare repeal, Walters had a bluntly honest moment as to why she avoids town halls: She admitted she was fearful she might, “say something that will be used against [her] in the next campaign.”
However, hosting a town hall may have been useful for Walters. If she had held a town hall while contemplating the health care repeal bill, Walters might have heard from elderly constituents who opposed what the AARP dubbed an “age tax.” And if she bothered to hear what her constituents had to say, she might have heard from one of the millions of people who would have lost health care because of the repeal she championed.
But Walters has changed in her time in Washington, D.C. Instead of stressing the importance of listening to the people she represents, she now runs away from constituents with real questions, like a mother of two who simply wanted to know whether or not Walters would continue to accept donations from the NRA after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
If only someone in California’s 45th Congressional District was also named “Paul Ryan,” maybe that person could get Walters to schedule a town hall.