Politics

Ground game

Town hall drama? Not so much in Maine.

Senator Susan Collins.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Senator Susan Collins.

Members of Congress are back home, and there have been reports that Republicans, in particular, are being inundated by largely liberal constituents who want them to oppose President Trump at every level.

From California to Iowa to Pennsylvania to Virginia, Republicans are feeling heat in a way that's comparable to what Democrats saw during the rancorous town hall meetings of August 2009. Town hall meetings are a hallmark of democracy, especially in New England, but they are not a requirement for members on break from Capitol Hill. 

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In any case, it appears much of this town hall drama won’t be taking place in New England. Maine is the only state in the region with Republican representation in Congress, and neither US Senator Susan Collins nor US Representative Bruce Poliquin have announced plans to host a traditional in-person town hall meeting anytime soon. US Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also has not announced any plans to hold a town hall meeting.

This hasn’t stopped progressive groups from trying to reach them. While Collins isn’t holding a town hall meeting during this congressional break, she is still making the rounds in the state. This afternoon, Collins will travel to Maine Public Broadcasting to take part in a live “Maine Calling” radio show. Indivisible, a group of liberal activists, are planning to meet Collins at the station and swarm the show's phone lines in an attempt to get as many of their questions on air as the radio station allows. 

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Poliquin is attending open events in the Second District -- although no public schedule was given to the Globe after repeated requests. Yesterday Poliquin was at Colby College with fellow US Representative Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, and attended a press conference for a local foundation seeking to help alleviate college debt.

A Poliquin spokesman, Brendan Conley, said that the Congressman will continue to hold tele-town hall meetings, though none had been scheduled as of Wednesday. Conley argued that these kinds of meetings, which are typically conducted over the phone, are the most effective given the geographical size of the Second District -- the largest east of the Mississippi River.

But if the last week is any indication, it's no longer easy for members of Congress to avoid hosting town halls -- or the angry crowds that come with them. Progressive groups like Indivisible are organically organizing in local communities. And they're only just getting started: In Maine, for example, local groups in Portland and the Midcoast region held their first organizational meetings just recently.

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Then again, if progressives groups want to confront Republican elected officials, they have a great opportunity next month. Maine Governor Paul LePage, one of Trump's earliest and most vocal supporters, announced Wednesday morning that he will be holding a town hall meeting on March 8. 

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