CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. -- Canandaigua resident Renee Sutton spoke to her congressman, Republican Chris Collins, something she says many of her fellow constituents have been unable to do.
“I want him to offer this kind of opportunity, engagement and access to any constituent," said Sutton. "The only way to do that is to have a public town hall, and make it publicly known, spread the word, and invite your constituents to come and engage with you.”
Calls for a town hall have grown as some Western New Yorkers raise concerns about the new legislative agenda.
"He took the job, he wanted the job, and to me this goes with the territory,” said Sutton.
So far Collins has refused.
Sutton says it’s hypocritical for Collins, who has criticized what he calls the Washington elites dismissal of the American public.
“He’s behaving in a way as if he knows better than this American public that wants to meet with him and thinks a town hall is valuable. I don’t think he can do his best job being in a bubble and not hearing the concerns of people like me, and I think he’d be a better congressman if he embraced that.”
The congressman says he plans to reach out to Renee Sutton. But he says he’s not convinced that the town hall setting she’s pushing for is the best way to address the issues facing this district.
“This is not the way to communicate with people who really want to dive into an issue," said Rep. Chris Collins. "It can’t be like three or four questions shouted out in a crowd, and have people shouting through a megaphone. It doesn’t accomplish anything.”
Collins sees the town hall concern as a protest of his early endorsement of candidate Donald Trump.
“So I will call this a red herring, a bunch of protesters who don’t like Donald Trump, who have been out there since the day he was elected, marching in the streets. And this is just another way of them protesting a Republican," said Collins.
Yet Sutton says this is not about partisan politics, but compromise and shared values.
“I want to have faith that no matter what side they’re on, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, that they believe in American values, that they believe in our values and norms. And protest, engaging your congressman, that’s something that we’re supposed to want to do. I want our elected leaders to celebrate my engagement even if it’s uncomfortable for them. Isn’t an engaged electorate good for democracy? Isn’t it good for the United States?” said Sutton.