WASHINGTON ― As chairwoman of the House GOP’s millennial task force, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) issued a report last week urging her Republican colleagues to hold town halls to engage and win over millennial voters.
But Stefanik isn’t taking her own advice.
The second-term Republican has no current plans to hold a town hall meeting in her district during this week’s so-called “district work period,” even after pushing out a 22-page report last week that strongly advises members to be accessible to millennials and other voters.
“Millennials are a generation that expects their government to be open and honest, even if the message they deliver isn’t what they want to hear,” Stefanik writes in the first section of the report.
She later names four “best practices” for engaging millennials: hold roundtables with them, establish a youth advisory group, use social media and hold town halls.
Stefanik notes that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) held a town hall event at Georgetown University last year, and she advises House Republicans to organize similar events at local universities or high schools in their districts.
But Stefanik isn’t doing that. She was a no-show at events she was scheduled to attend once protesters showed up, according to local news coverage in her upstate New York district. Her critics charge that she’s going back on a campaign pledge of transparency by posting her schedule only after the days have come and gone.
Responding to the criticism, Stefanik posted on Facebook that it’s “unfortunate and counterproductive that a small number of activists believe the best way to address the very serious issues facing our country is to hijack and ambush community events for the sole purpose of political theater.”
Many House Republicans seem to believe the protests in their districts are not representative of their constituencies and are simply a small, vocal and organized minority.
Stefanik, a 32-year-old millennial herself, has nevertheless preached accessibility even when it is uncomfortable. But the congresswoman ― who also refers Capitol Hill reporters to her office when they ask her questions in hallways ― has gone out of her way to duck protesters.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has its eyes on Stefanik’s moderate seat, blasted the report and called Stefanik’s behavior an example of “galling hypocrisy.”
“Congresswoman Stefanik waxed poetic about the importance of holding town halls and then refused to hold her own ― proving that her words are as meaningless as Speaker Ryan’s shiny little pamphlet,” DCCC spokesman Evan Lukaske told The Huffington Post, referring to Ryan’s “Better Way” agenda.
“It’s time for House Republicans to stop hiding and start explaining why they are going to take health care away from millions of hardworking Americans,” he added.
A spokesman for Stefanik defended her failure to appear at town halls in her district. “Congresswoman Stefanik is on a Congressional Delegation trip this week as part of her work on the House Intelligence Committee for new Members that has been scheduled since early January,” said Tom Flanagin, her communications director.
This story has been updated with comment from a spokesman for Stefanik.