Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cruz, Cornyn Offices Overwhelmed by Constituents Who Actually Want to Talk to Them

Posted By and on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 3:10 PM

click image He's speechless. - GAGE SKIDMORE, FLICKR.COM
  • Gage Skidmore, Flickr.com
  • He's speechless.

On Tuesday, Texans flocked to the district offices of senators and representatives across the state — not in protest, but in an effort to simply flex their constitutional right to be heard.

"We're asking for a town hall meeting, or any kind of event where the men we elected to office will hear our concerns," said Jeanie Valenzuela, a member of TX21 Indivisible — a growing group of Congressional District 21 residents determined to lobby local politicians to resist the Trump agenda.

On Tuesday, Valenzuela and 15 other San Antonians visited the offices of Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Lamar Smith to do just that — and were largely met with a collective shrug from district staff.

Cruz's regional director told them, according to Valenzuela, to "go to Washington" if they wanted to meet with Cruz. Smith's staff said they couldn't share when their representative would be back in town. And Cornyn's office was locked during its open hours (the group left a post-it note on his door).

"As a group, we are very disappointed. There are some incredible changes being made right now in Congress," Valenzuela said.

"We elected these officials to represent us, but how would they know what we want if they never come back to hear our voices?" That doesn't mean she's discouraged — her group plans to return every week until they get a response. Tuesday was just the beginning.

TX21 Indivisible is one of the nearly 4,500 national groups created after a document — called the "Indivisible Guide" — made its online debut days after the November election. The guide, created by former members of Congress, gave readers a step-by-step rundown on how to use local political action to spur change in Congress and the White House (it uses the the success of the Tea Party movement as a model).

An estimated 10,000 Americans visited the offices of their local elected officials on Tuesday, flagged as a "national day of action" by Indivisible's founders, including groups in Houston, Austin and Dallas.

When Dona Murphy and a large group of other concerned Texans visited Sen. Cruz's Houston office on Tuesday, she was met by a frightened-look staffer who told them they needed to send in a "constituent representative" to speak for the group.

It wasn't the response Murphy wanted to hear. "That’s not a fair offer, we don’t know each other’s stories. I can’t represent all their perspectives," she told the Current. "What is a ‘constituent representative’? I thought that’s what [Cruz is] supposed to be.” At the same time, 50 constituents were kicked out of Cornyn's Houston office by a police office who said they were on private property.

In Austin, more than 100 people showed up at Cruz's capitol office to share their opposition to Trump's cabinet picks. They weren't let inside — instead, a staffer came down to hear a few of their concerns. Those who couldn't attend called their local offices, but many were met with full voicemail boxes, endless unanswered rings — even the antiquated drone of a busy signal.

Neither Cruz nor Cornyn's offices could tell the Current if the Senators were planning to speak with the many, many constituents who want to talk to them anytime soon. Perhaps they were too busy writing blog posts praising the Trump cabinet picks, or simply trolling Deadspin on Twitter. (*Update 1/27: In an email, Sen. Cornyn's press office said that if Texans want to meet with their Senator, they are more than welcome to visit his Washington, D.C. office on Thursdays.)

"Across Texas, we're feeling ignored by the people who are supposed to represent us," Valenzuela said.

It's a universal concern. From Seattle, WA to Louisville, KY, thousands of constituents flooded the halls of their elected officials Tuesday to hand-deliver a similar message.

And a reminder: They'll be back next week.

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