Echoes-Sentinel

Rep. Lance's Chief Of Staff Defends Town Hall Ticketing Distribution

Echoes-Sentinel — February 23, 2017

By WALTER O'BRIEN, Staff Writer

Citizen groups have complained that ticket distribution to two upcoming town hall meetings by Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7, have been mishandled or possibly even favored gender or party affiliation, but Lance's Chief of Staff Todd Mitchell has vigorously defended his candidate and the distribution process.

Lance was to meet his constituents in town hall meetings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Edward Nash Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College, 118 Lamington Road, in Branchburg.

NJ 7 Forward, a group representing concerned residents who live in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District, criticized Rep. Lance in a Feb. 18 statement for "poorly implemented planning of his town hall. The mismanagement has left large numbers of constituents confused, frustrated and blocked from an opportunity to make their voices heard about important issues that face our country today."

"People in our district are frustrated with what is happening in Washington today and want to make sure that their opinions are heard," Joyce Santos, a Flemington, New Jersey resident and a member of the NJ 7 Forward group, said in the release. "But it feels like Rep. Lance has gone out of his way to make the process of registering for his town halls difficult and redundant for his constituents."

Dena Mottola of New Jersey Citizen Action sent an email to members stating that some of their participants in the recent health care vigils were "frustrated" by being told by Lance's office that, although they had registered when the town hall was announced, they had not received a ticket for the Wednesday town hall event. The group claimed there was favoritism toward Republican ticket seekers over Democrats.

That group's email to members suggested telling staff people at Lance's offices that "you are aware they are still registering Republicans and that you know there is space in the venue still. Demand a seat."

Mitchell said that Lance's office, after considering smaller venues, chose to hold the event at Raritan Valley Community College which can accommodate roughly 1,200 people.

"We have tried to accommodate as many as we can," Mitchell said. "And as of Sunday, there is still some room in the Saturday spillover room. Any individual who is telling you that they cannot attend the event that RSVPed before the port closed last week is (misinformed) as there are still about 20 seats available in the spillover room for Saturday."

Mitchell said they are planning to live stream the event so anyone unable to make it will be able to watch it "in the warmth and comfort of their own home, live while it is happening.

"We are doing the best we can, we might even be able to take questions," Mitchell said. "We're trying to figure this all out trying to accommodate as many people as possible, and will (email) blast it out on our website and Facebook page.

"Had we just kept to the one town hall, probably 2,000 people would have come there expecting to get a seat and would have been disappointed," Mitchell said. "We have tried to accommodate everybody to be able to either have a seat or see it online."

Mitchell said that Lance feels "comfortable" about having a large number of his constituents come out to hear and ask questions.

"Leonard has always felt you should see and hear your representative," Mitchell said. "And he does phone town halls throughout the year.

"It's OK to disagree as long as you're not disagreeable, your relationship with your representative is a two-way street, but it's important to maintain civility - it should be a civil discourse. He will stand up and answer every question asked of him, but he expects civility and order, not chaos, and that's what we're expecting for these town hall meetings."

The 7th District includes Long Hill, Warren and Watchung.

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