By Alice Minium
HENRICO, Va. — On the rainy evening of Friday, July 27, Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA7) appeared at his Broad Street campaign office in Glen Allen, Va. for an Open House “birthday party” in celebration of his November re-election campaign.
An unexpected guest crashed the party.
It was a giant chicken balloon shaped like President Donald Trump.
While the Congressman dined with campaign donors and volunteers, a group of his constituents gathered outside his office on the other side of Broad Street. The protesters said they were frustrated that Rep. Dave Brat would attend a party after skipping out on public meetings with his constituents. The group of protesters converged near the giant balloon bearing signs with their messages for the Congressman. One sign read, “Why is Dave too chicken to meet his constituents?”
Protestors are upset at the Congressman’s lack of public visibility. Dave Brat has not held a public town hall with his constituents since May 2017.
Two of the protestors, Lisa Salita and her husband, were turned away from Rep. Dave Brat’s Open House. Salila said she is on Brat’s campaign list, and she requested two tickets to the event. But when Lisa and her husband appeared at the door, tickets in hand, she said they were turned away without explanation.
Instead, Salita joined the protestors across the street in the rain, signs in hand.
Salita appeared more hurt than angry. “I heard that he likes when people write down their questions, so I brought a question I wrote down so I could ask him,” she said. Salila never got the chance.
She’s not the only one who’s frustrated with lack of access to the representative.
“I think if I could say something to Dave Brat, I would be professional,” Al DeFalco, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said at the protest. “We might even agree on something if I could just talk to him.”
While Congressional representatives traditionally meet with their constituents during Congressional recess breaks, more and more Republican Congressmen are skipping their own events. After the 2017 inauguration, many Congressional Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act came home to find anxious and angry constituents. Dave Brat, who represents a politically divided district, was among them. Events that had historically had the atmosphere of banal local city council meetings suddenly started to look a lot more like protests.
At Dave Brat’s last town hall, May 9, he faced a fire of questions from his constituents about efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, environmental budget cuts, Russia, and his own voting record. After skipping out on a gun violence town hall and then holding one in a county far from most of his constituents, Dave Brat eventually stopped showing up at town halls altogether.
Now many of his constituents feel they have no way to reach him. These protesters were certainly willing to do whatever it takes to get his attention.
“I just want to talk to him,” one protestor said.
If that can’t happen, a giant balloon will have to do.
PHOTOS: Protestors gather outside Rep. Dave Brat campaign event