Constituents Turned Away From “Public” Meeting Take Their Message Outside
After An August Recess With Zero Public Meetings, Hundreds of Constituents Turn Out to Make Rep. Cantor Address the Jobs Crisis
RICHMOND, Va.– In an rare appearance in his district, Rep. Cantor was met with more than 200 of his constituents who are angry with their congressman about his inattention to the jobs crisis, his brinkmanship on the debt ceiling deal and his controversial stance on disaster funding.
With no end to the jobs crisis in sight and growing discontent after a debt deal that will lead to further job losses, unemployed workers and community members in Rep. Cantor’s district have grown tired of Rep. Cantor avoiding them by holding seldom public events or town halls.
His constituents took their concerns to him at his private quarterly Citizens Advisory Council meeting in Richmond on Wednesday. The campaign event, while described by Rep. Cantor as a “public event,” required constituents to jump through several hoops to attend. Candace Graham of Chesterfield was able to attend the event in spite of the hurdles.
“I only saw the event listed on the Tea Party website and that’s how I knew it was happening. After signing up for the Advisory Council, you had to know to call his staff so that they put you on the list since no event information was actually sent out,” said Graham. “Our leaders in Washington work for us and we should not have to go to such lengths to be able to ask them a question. I’m surprised there wasn’t someone asking for a secret password when I walked into the building!”
In anticipation of many constituents being turned away at the door, organizers rented a ballroom in the hotel to hold a separate jobs rally. An hour prior to the start of Rep. Cantor’s event, the hotel manager abruptly told the organizers they had two minutes to leave the ballroom. Undeterred, the constituents filled the median across the street from the hotel and chanted “Jobs Now!”
At the impromptu rally outside, unemployed Rep. Cantor constituents shared one story after the next of struggling to find work in the Richmond area.
"I have two masters degrees and a lifetime of experience but I have been out of work for over a year. It is tough for me to need charity when I am so used to helping provide for others in the past. But my Congressman, Rep. Cantor is deaf to people like me because he refuses to have a meeting about jobs,” said constituent Marie Coons. “I signed up for his meeting but was denied access. Is it because I have not contributed to his campaign? Is it because I am not a Tea Party member? Or is it because I am unemployed and he is hiding from people like me?”
"There are 40,000 unemployed people in this district and we cannot get a meeting by phone, in person or even a town hall meeting with Eric Cantor to talk about this crisis. These are our neighbors and friends and family who are struggling,” said constituent Marjorie Clark. “Now he won't even let us into his private meeting but stopped us from having our own meeting on jobs. What is he afraid of? Why won't he meet with us?"
On top of facing unemployment, many residents are still without power and are facing substantial damage from Hurricane Irene and were outraged over Rep. Cantor’s comments that disaster funding should be offset with spending cuts.
Those who were able to get inside the event found that Rep. Cantor cherry picked which constituents would be allowed to ask questions.
“I had my hand up the entire time and watched as only Cantor supporters were chosen to ask questions. It seemed that only after clapping and smiling at everything that Rep. Cantor said was I handed the mic,” said Jeff Hunt of Richmond. “Finally, I was able to ask him why he does not support extending the payroll tax cut for a year. For a congressman who slavishly sticks to his tax cuts message, I cannot understand why he would not support a measure that cuts taxes for a majority of Americans and creates jobs.”
On Monday, Cantor released a jobs memo that outlines a series of deregulations of environmental and safety protections. While rally goers were pleased that Rep. Cantor acknowledged the need for jobs, they were less than impressed with Rep. Cantor’s anemic jobs outline.
“Rep. Cantor’s ‘jobs memo’ will not create jobs, it will create sick kids and unsafe drinking water,” said Virginia Organizing Board Member Ladelle McWhorter. “If Rep. Cantor was serious about creating jobs, he would end tax breaks and loopholes for CEOs, hedge fund managers and others, and make big, profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes so America can invest in creating quality jobs here at home.”
Virginia Organizing is a statewide grassroots organization that brings people together to create a more just Virginia.