Protesters demand Comstock town hall

Jeff Jenkins, a Frederick County resident, organized a counter protest, composed mostly of his own workers at his excavating company, to show support for President Donald Trump. Jenkins gave his employees the day off for the counter-protest. Jake Zuckerman/Daily

WINCHESTER – Both a protest and a counter protest with about 15 members each formed Friday outside the local office of U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean.

The first group of demonstrators who picketed outside the office said they were irritated about Comstock’s alleged failure to appear at a town hall a few weeks ago and her refusal to schedule another.

In turn, a counter-protest formed in support of President Donald Trump and his administration.

Liz Carter drove down from the east side of Loudoun County for the event. She said more than forwarding any policy issue, she came down to pressure her representative into holding a dialogue with her constituents to hear from them directly.

“I do have some issues with some of the votes that she’s made, but my goal is to have her do a face-to-face town hall,” Carter said. “I would like for her to hear directly from her constituents, what our concerns are, and I’d like for us to have an opportunity for her to speak to that and give us more information on her upcoming legislation and her intended votes.”

Protesters gathered outside the George Washington Hotel in Winchester on Friday, near U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock's office, to demand she appear before her constituents at a town hall event. Jake Zuckerman/Daily

According to a Feb. 1 Politico story, Comstock stood up dozens of constituents in Fairfax County who came out to “mobile office hours” in Lorton and Oakton, Virginia.

However, Dave Stegmaier, Comstock’s director of community outreach, dismissed the story when asked about it. He said Comstock is an active representative and has hosted several outreach events, including a telephone town hall event in which 6,000 people heard from her via phone, and a survey sent to constituents throughout her district.

Along with the protest, several activists sat down with Stegmaier and another case worker for the congresswoman and pressed them on a host of issues, including the congresswoman’s stance on gun control, the resignation of Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn, and a perceived disparity in investigations involving former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Trump.

Upping the ante on Comstock, several of Comstock’s constituents said they are holding a town hall – with or without the Congresswoman – at 7 p.m. Friday in the gymnasium of the Sterling Community Center.

Stegmaier said though he could not speak for Comstock directly, it’s unlikely she will host a town hall event until the political climate calms down.

“It’s pretty obvious why not,” he said. “The atmosphere would not allow for it.”

Some arguing has bled into outright hostility at political events across the country. Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, faced heckling from a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters who came out to a town hall event he hosted.

Likewise, protesters blocked Trump’s controversial pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, from entering a public school in Washington D.C., prompting her to flee the scene, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Stegmaier said at this point, a town hall would just be people shouting over one another.

“Seeing the level of anger and hostility – there are other ways for us to communicate than to have a mob of people show up and scream,” he said.

However, another Republican politician, Del. Chris Collins, R-Winchester,  held a town hall Feb. 11 in Middletown. Though left-leaning constituents grilled him on some of his votes in the Virginia General Assembly, he engaged in civil dialogue – largely without interruption — for more than an hour.

When asked if Collins’s event could be seen as a setting a precedent for a civil town hall with the congresswoman, Stegmaier declined to comment.

Comstock declined to be interviewed for this article.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com