U.S. Rep. Martha McSally said she would not be attending a grass-roots group’s town-hall meeting planned for later this month, describing the gathering as a “political ambush.”
During a telephone call with constituents, the two-term Republican congresswoman who represents District 2 said activists — primarily Democrats — want an opportunity to verbally berate members of Congress in a public setting.
“(The forum) is about trapping people in a political ambush for political theater,” she said, shortly after her local office was presented a petition with more than 1,000 signatures asking her to hold a public meeting.
McSally reiterated she has met repeatedly with community members in public forums since taking office in 2015. Her staff earlier released a list showing the congresswoman has met with constituents about 30 times in town-hall settings since taking office.
Also, a member of her staff said McSally could not work with a specific political group to hold a town hall, noting it would violate House ethics rules.
The invitation to the forum came in the form of a protest Tuesday in front of McSally’s congressional office in Tucson, with several groups joining forces to collect 1,300 signatures requesting McSally participate in a town hall.
Marion Chubon, the leader of the group “McSally Take a Stand,” said various groups have been trying for three months to get the congresswoman to agree to a public forum.
Other groups involved with the protest included Nasty Women and Bad Hombres of the East Side, Pansuit Nation Tucson, Progressives of Southern Arizona and Indivisible Tucson. The Pima County Democratic Party also encouraged Democrats to attend the event if it is held.
Despite failing to set a date for a meeting with McSally, group leaders scheduled a town hall to be held at St. Francis in the Foothills Methodist Church on Feb. 23. They also put down a $500 security deposit to reserve the space.
Chubon, a registered Democrat, says she got involved with the group shortly after the November election.
“Most of our members are not (politically) active either and we are very careful to not endorse candidates in our group. Members discuss different candidates but we are neutral,” she said.
She was disappointed with McSally’s suggestion the town hall is a partisan ploy.
“We call and email and we get form letters that don’t address our concerns. More often than not, they do not even mention our concerns. We all have gotten the exact same two letters,” she said.
“If Martha McSally wants to try to paint the 125 people who showed up today out of frustration with her lack of engagement as political Democratic activists attempting to ambush her by asking for a town hall, that just shows how out of touch she is with nearly half of her constituents,” Chubon said.
A spokesman for McSally said previously the two-term congresswoman has met with constituents more than 30 times since taking office and that she participated Tuesday in a phone call with constituents, what her office called a tele-town hall.
The list of public gatherings attended by McSally offered by her office contains mainly meetings with specific audiences, such as a business or organization. For example, a meeting at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson had McSally talking to company employees and members of the press.
Patrick Ptak, a McSally spokesman, said she is in the process of scheduling meetings with several local groups. He said McSally has met with groups that disagree with her on certain issues, including Citizens Climate Lobby, Gun Violence Prevention AZ and Mothers Demand Action.
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at email@example.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson