ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It was a meeting months in the making.
Congressman Chris Collins followed through on a promise he made to constituent Renee Sutton on national television in March.
Sutton says their one-on-one meeting started off with agreement on funding for teenage pregnancy prevention programs.
“To find common ground in that was fantastic,” she said. “Really happy about that.”
But Sutton says things changed when she asked about the country’s tone post-Charlottesville.
“And then the tenor of the meeting really changed. It was uncomfortable. The congressman called me a hypocrite for saying that I thought the political discourse was too negative.”
Sutton says Collins accused protesters on the left of contributing to the negativity.
She says she then asked Collins how he can represent constituents without being accessible or listening to them. She says he abruptly ended the meeting after giving this answer:
“‘I represent the 72 percent of people who voted for me. You didn’t vote for me.’ And I was just stunned, so stunned to hear an elected official respond to me that way," said Sutton. "He’s confident that he doesn’t need my vote or the votes of people who think like I do in this district, because the numbers are in his favor. So he can behave like that in a meeting and be unprofessional and insulting to a constituent, because he doesn’t even value me as a vote.”
In an email, Collins’ office responded by saying, quote:
“Congressman Collins upheld his offer to meet with a constituent, and she has done nothing but turn the meeting into an opportunity for free publicity. As a part of her campaign for Canandaigua City Council, she is pitching senseless accusations to the press in order to see her name in print.”
Sutton maintains her one-on-one meeting with Collins only happened because she confronted him on national television. But she says all of his constituents deserve to interact with him in a town hall setting.
“If you really believe in the way you’re representing us, the legislative agenda that you’re pursuing, then have the courage to come in front of a body of your constituents and convince us of that,” she said. “We need to go back to governing this country and our participation in the public square being positive and respectful. We are all Americans, and we need to stop behaving like people who don’t agree with us are our enemy.”