Goodlatte’s constituents hold town hall without lawmaker

Helen Jean Smith speaks during a Sixth District town hall meeting Saturday at the Charterhouse School in Edinburg. U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte had been invited to the town hall but he did not attend. Nathan Budryk/Daily

EDINBURG – Nearly 150 people turned out to the Charterhouse School in Edinburg on Saturday night for a Sixth District town hall meeting to voice their concerns to U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, who did not attend.

The two-hour event featured a panel of six speakers and several questions from audience members. Panel speaker topics ranged from health care to immigration to the environment. The event, organized by Helen Jean Smith, was recorded on video and will be sent to Goodlatte’s office.

Serving as the master of ceremony for Saturday’s event was David Evans, former staff director for the Senate Subcommittee for Education.

“This is a meeting, really, for Congressman Goodlatte,” Evans said. “It’s sad that he can’t be here but we’re going to deliver a message to him. … All of the questions are going to go to Congressman Goodlatte so he will know that while he wasn’t here, we were.”

Members of Goodlatte’s district have been calling for the congressman to hold a town hall, something he hasn’t done since 2013, to hear their concerns.   The sentiment in Evans’ words on Saturday night was a popular one throughout the night, with many who spoke simply asking Goodlatte to see and hear them. Among their concerns were LGBT rights, immigration, environmental policy and Russia’s potential involvement in the November presidential election.

Smith said that she was pleased with the turnout at the event and hopes the level of participation can help serve as that much more of a message to Goodlatte.

“There was enough variety (of topics addressed),” said Smith. “I think they’re very concerned about Russia influencing the election. They’re very concerned about health care. Obviously the environment (is a concern). Several people talked about the pipelines. I think it went well.”

Smith said that the high level of participation is encouraging, as the event’s purpose was just that – to air grievances to Goodlatte, even if it is done so through a videotape.

“It was better than we expected,” Smith said. “I think it’s extremely important and I think the congressman, if we can get him to look at it, I think he’ll be impressed by what he hears. … We’re going to keep active. People want this. People are so incensed at the things that are being taken away from us.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com