Rep. Tom Garrett, R-5th, has announced a location for his in-person town hall in Charlottesville, but it has been delayed until the end of the month because of a schedule conflict.
Now set for 6:30 p.m. March 31 instead of 7 p.m. March 13, the town hall will be held, fittingly, at Garrett Hall at the University of Virginia’s Frank D. Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, according to a news release.
Seating is limited to 135 ticket holders. The release states 45 tickets will go to Batten School students, “with priority to those who live in the 5th District;” 45 for “the local Republican committee;” and 45 for “the local Democrat committee.”
The release says tickets can be acquired by contacting “your local Republican committee or the Charlottesville Democrat Committee,” but it only provides a phone number of the Charlottesville Democratic Party: (434) 242-2297.
Garrett’s news release lays out several ground rules: “As per the rules set forth by Batten, there will be no signs allowed. Furthermore, cheering, clapping, booing, and chanting are also not allowed. All questions will be addressed to the moderator/congressman and not to other attendees. All questions and answers will be respectful and professional. No topic is off limits.”
Andrew Griffin, Garrett’s spokesman, said that the format of the town hall “creates the best environment for a free, equal, and professionally moderated exchange of ideas from constituents across all ends of the political spectrum.”
The area's Democratic parties said they would not participate in the event.
Elayne Phillips and Ivora Hinton, co-chairs of the Charlottesville Democratic Party, wrote in a joint statement that they "were not asked in advance and did not agree to facilitate distribution of tickets. ... We respectfully decline this invitation; we call on our counterparts in the Charlottesville Republican Party to join us in declining to participate; and we hope that the University of Virginia’s Batten School will reconsider their participation in this event."
Albemarle Democratic Committee Chairwoman Patty Haling made a similar statement. "[W]e will not participate in any event that doesn't facilitate open participation by as many constituents as possible," she said. "We call on our neighbors in the Albemarle Republican Party to also reject this invitation to a closed-door event."
David Singerman of Indivisible Charlottesville, a recently formed progressive political advocacy group, said Garrett is “clearly trying to escape any kind of difficult questions from his constituents by packing the hall with his supporters and rigging the rules.” He also called the seating limit “hopelessly and almost comically inadequate.”
When asked by The News & Advance in Lynchburg about how those not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties could obtain tickets, Griffin said “they’re more than welcome to call their local units they most identify with and request tickets."
A town hall meeting held without Garrett by Indivisible Charlottesville drew at least a thousand people on Sunday. Garrett, who held Facebook Live events in previous weeks, announced plans to hold two in-person town halls a few days prior to the event. Indivisible Charlottesville originally planned to hold their town hall on Saturday, but he was unable to attend because he was in Germany “fulfilling his responsibilities to both the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security” committees, Griffin previously said.
To accommodate his travel schedule – he was scheduled to return from Germany that Saturday – the town hall was moved to Sunday, but Garrett still did not attend.
"There is an empty seat in a Sudanese prison because I did my job," Garrett said in a text message to The News & Advance late Wednesday night, referring to his diplomatic efforts in Germany on behalf of a formerly imprisoned Czech national. "The next live town hall I have will be one more than my predecessor had in six years."
Another in-person town hall is planned for May 9 in Moneta. Specific details have not been announced.