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PA Congressperson Town Hall Scorecard — One A+, Mostly Fs

Town halls seem like something quintessentially American. It’s a place where citizens get together to hear each other and make decisions. It’s also a way for politicians to engage with their constituencies. The digital transformation that has unfolded over the last decade (and likely before than that), has made town halls less important: tv, email, social media and online video have allowed information to flow. But does that mean town halls are dead? Not needed? In the age of social media is it important — still — to come together to meet, to talk, to listen? This coverthis.news story aims to look at the issue objectively, simply by counting town halls across Pennsylvania House of Representatives. 

Key Takeaways

If you want the key results, here they are. But please read through the rest of this article to see our methodology as well as the data and other analysis.

  • Democrats held 100% of the town halls. Republicans held no town halls.
  • 69% of the town halls held in PA in 2019 were held by congresswomen.

Basic Information

There are 18 U.S. Congressional Representatives in PA. They are split evenly by party. They are:

Name of Rep. Political Party District House of Reps
Brendan Boyle Democrat 2nd District
Mathew Cartwright Democrat 8th District
Madeleine Dean Democrat 4th District
Mike Doyle Jr. Democrat 18th District
Dwight Evans Democrat 3rd District
Brian Fitzpatrick Republican 1st District
Chrissy Houlahan Democrat 6th District
John Joyce Republican 13th District
Fred Keller Republican 12th District
Mike Kelly Republican 16th District
Conor Lamb Democrat 17th District
Daniel Meuser Republican 9th District
Scott Perry Republican 10th District
Guy Reschenthaler Republican 14th District
Mary Scanlon Democrat 5th District
Lloyd Smucker Republican 11th District
Glenn Thompson Republican 15th District
Susan Wild Democrat 7th District

Methodology

To collect the information we followed this process:

  1. We defined “town hall” as in-person events that were open to the public.
    1. We did not include telephone-based events. Or small, invite-only events held at coffee shops, for example. 
  2. We called every representative’s office and asked the following questions: 
    1. How many town halls were done in 2019
    2. How many are planned for the remainder of the year
  3. If we didn’t get to talk to someone, we asked for an email of someone who could answer the questions. We then proceeded to email the questions. 
  4. If we didn’t hear from a representative’s office, we followed up at least twice: by phone and by email.
  5. Whether or not we got an answer via phone/email from the rep, we verified the number of town halls on Facebook or other social media.

Analysis & Charts

 

 

 

Anecdotes

  • Some offices didn’t respond to our inquiries. We received answers from the 8 of 9 Democratic representatives, but by comparison we only received responses from 3 of the 9 Republican offices.
  • One notable quote comes from Matt Dinkle, the communications director for Congressman (D) Mike Doyle Jr. who said, on the phone, the following when answering how many town halls Congressman Doyle Jr. has had in 2019: “Not like we keep track, at least multiple, just trying to get through the year without another constitutional crisis.” He said multiple, but our research found none. 
  • Another notable quote comes from Colleen Gerrity, Communications Director for Congressman (D) Matthew Cartwright, who said, via email, the following in response to the question, “What is the difference between a town hall and a coffee event? Should they been seen as different?”  She responded: “No they shouldn’t be seen as different, they are not called town halls but the concept is the same with a little bit more of a comfortable setting….Pretty much the same concept as a town hall except that there are tables and chairs instead of just chairs set up in an auditorium setting. The congressman goes from table to table to answer questions instead of in the front of the room. A coffee event is a much more personable and comfortable set up compared to a town hall. We serve coffee and donuts at our coffee events where we don’t serve anything at our town halls. People feel they can ask a variety of questions in a smaller group then they can in a larger group. Constituents converse with each other while waiting for the Congressman to get to their table. We have had a much better response at our coffee events then we have at our town hall Both events are fully open to the public, and both events are well-publicized with the exact same outreach/crowd-building from our office.” 

Questions for the audience

  • Does this matter to you?
  • Have you ever attended a town hall held by your local representative(s)? 
  • Do the results change your opinion of your/a representative?
  • Do you think there should be a minimum? If so, how many?
  • Do you think the trend of Democrats holding more town halls than Republicans, or even the trend that Republicans don’t hold town halls, would continue if this research project was done on a country wide scale? Would you be interested in seeing this research project expanded to a country wide scale?

Links to primary research

Related reading

How coverthis.news makes this possible

coverthis.news is a website that allows anyone to suggest a topic that’s worthy of news coverage.

Research staff

Chris Dima and Austin Gomberg researched and wrote this report.

Who paid for this research/reporting?

The following backers contributed 100% of the funds behind this story.

Devin Holdraker — $75
Jeff White — $25
Nick Gluzdov — $25
Richard Dima — $10
Theodore Dima — $20
Christopher Merkner — $25
Karim Husain — $10
James Watkins — $25
Douglas McConatha — $100
JAMES PRATT — $5
Austin Gomberg — $10
Diane Dima — $25
Christopher Dima — $100
Andrew Cassel — $25
Daniel Paugh — $10
George Karmas — $10

 

Edits

  • 2019 December 23: Additional town halls added for Rep. Scanlon
    • Due to information provided to us from Gabby Richards, Communications Director for Rep. Scanlon, we added six additional town halls.
  • 2019 December 23: Additional town halls added for Rep. Boyle
    • Due to information provided to us from Sean Tobin, Communications Director for Rep. Boyle we added three town halls.
  • 2019 December 25: Additional town halls added for Rep. Dean
    • Due to information provided to us from Tim Mack, Communications Director for Rep. Dean we added one additional town hall.
  • 2019 December 30: Additional town halls reviewed but not added for Rep. Perry
  • 2019 December 31: Additional town halls added for Rep. Doyle 
      • We reached out to local news reporters for each rep. and after hearing back from Doyle’s reporter, the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette’s own Daniel Moore, we moved Rep. Doyle from 0 to 1 town hall in 2019; due to the information Moore provided and our follow-up research.
  • 2020 January 2: First article written about/referencing our research report 
      • Kathleen E. Carey of the Delco Times, a local reporter we reached out to regarding Rep. Scanlon’s town hall numbers specifically, wrote an article based on our research and also spoke about all the work CoverThis.News did to create it. You can read that here:
  • 2020 January 10: Second article written about/referencing our research report 
      • Evan Brandt of the Pottstown Mercury, a local reporter we reached out to regarding Rep. Dean’s town hall number specifically, wrote an article based on our research and also spoke about all the work CoverThis.News did to create it. You can read that here:
  • 2020 January 13: Third article written about/referencing our research report
      • Evan Brandt of the West Chester Daily Local, a local reporter we reached out to regarding Rep. Dean’s town hall number specifically, wrote an article based on our research and also spoke about all the work CoverThis.News did to create it. You can read that here:

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