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Talk of the town hall: Oh where, oh where, has the GOP gone?

By BERRY CRAIG

Kentuckian Daniel Hurt has a question for Republicans who claim town hall protestors are just a bunch of sore loser Democrats.

“Where are your people?” asked Hurt, who at age 23 is one of the youngest members of the Kentucky Democratic Party Executive Committee. “If I were a Republican, I’d be there challenging the Democrats and telling my member of congress he’s doing a good job--unless I thought he’s not.”

Hurt is from Grand Rivers, a community in Livingston County, which is in the western part of the Republican Red Bluegrass State’s First District. Last November, President Trump and freshman GOP Congressman James Comer carried every county by hefty margins.

Hurt can’t account for why Republicans don’t seem to be rallying their troops for town halls, at least for some of them in his neck of the woods.

Evidently, Democrats or Democratic-leaning constituents way outnumbered Republicans at Comer’s TV-hookup town hall in Paducah in March. Anyway, most people who spoke up opposed the American Health Care Act, which the Tompkinsville freshman had announced he supported.

Democrats and unions are working to turn out a big crowd for his next town hall in nearby Benton. 

Set for Wednesday, it will be the first town hall Comer has held in the westerly reaches of his district since he voted for the revised GOP American Health Care Act, which guts the Affordable Care Act. The First District includes a nearly 300-mile wide swath of mostly rural counties in western and south-central Kentucky.  

A Trump loyalist and tea party conservative who is proud to have flown on Air Force One with the president, Comer has voted for every Trump-backed bill, according to FiveThirtyEight’s website, “Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump: An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.”

(Four of Kentucky’s five other GOP congressmen are 100 percent supporters of Trump legislation. The other one, Freedom Caucus member Thomas Massie who voted against the AHCA because he said it didn’t go far enough in overturning the ACA, rates a 79.3. The state’s lone Democrat, John Yarmuth, is a 13.8 percenter.)

“It is interesting that the Democrats are energized now, and not just at these town halls,” said Hurt, who chairs his county Democratic committee, is president of the multi-county West Kentucky Young Democrats, and is an honorary delegate to the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.

He pointed to the Jan. 21 Murray “March for Equality and Social Justice,” which drew 800 people from Murray, Paducah, Mayfield and other nearby counties and towns. Most of the marchers were Democrats.

Rumors of a GOP counter-protest proved false. Nobody challenged the marchers or the speakers at a post-march rally at the courthouse.

”I’m not saying Republicans should be there at town halls or not,” Hurt said. “But members of Congress do these town halls in hopes of getting the seal of approval from their constituents.”

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