Our Opinion: Voters deserve chance to hear from Holding in town hall meeting

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Rep. George Holding’s reluctance to hold town hall meetings has made him an easy target in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s crosshairs.

The fundraising group launched a website, HoldingTownHallWatch.com, keeping tabs on the number of days he’s gone without a town hall in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes the western half of Wilson County.

As of Wednesday, the count stood at 1,650 days. According to the DCCC, Holding has not held a town hall since his election to the U.S. House in 2012.

William Glenn, communications director for the third-term Republican congressman from Raleigh, said Holding is accessible to his constituents.

“If someone wants to know where George stands on an issue, or needs help sorting out a problem with a federal agency like the Social Security Administration, it’s easy to contact him: Call his office, email him, visit his website, send a message on social media,” Glenn told The Wilson Times in an email. “A constituent or group can also call and ask to meet with George in person. That happens all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes, a meeting will turn out to be a political stunt. We try to avoid those. For example, a Democratic group working to defeat George held a political rally in the district last week and called it a town hall — then attacked George for not attending. But Democratic rallies aren’t town halls.”

We have no reason to doubt Holding is responsive to constituents on a one-on-one basis, but the lack of public events is a cause for concern.

To the average person in the 2nd Congressional District, it makes no difference whether Holding holds court at a regional town hall hosted by a nonpartisan group, one put on by the Republican Party or an event his office facilitates. What matters is that residents of all political persuasions have an opportunity to meet and speak with their congressman.

Holding tends to fly under the radar, in contrast with Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat who represents eastern Wilson County in the 1st Congressional District.

Butterfield spoke about the CSX rail hub coming to Rocky Mount in an Aug. 4 meeting and hosted a community discussion Tuesday evening at Bertie High School in Windsor. He routinely holds public events throughout the 1st District.

Each week, the Times receives multiple news releases, advisories and alerts from Butterfield’s office. Holding is comparatively quiet, and that’s putting it charitably — the most recent press release posted on his website dates to Feb. 10, 2016.

Wilson County deserves to hear from both of its congressmen. We think Holding could do more to connect with his constituents here and throughout the 2nd District.

Responsiveness should not be a partisan issue. By declining to hold town-hall meetings, Holding has given unnecessary ammunition to Democratic groups who hope to unseat him in the 2018 midterm. Sam Searcy and Wendy Ella May, both Democrats, say they plan to run against Holding next year.

We’re sure Holding would acquit himself well in the town-hall format. If protesters show up, he should allow them to speak their minds and then answer their criticism honestly. Avoiding confrontation isn’t a good quality for a public servant.