When Kathleen Keadan, a leader of local activist organization Capital Region Indivisible, found out that Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) was holding a public town hall on Tuesday — only the second she said that he has held since 2017 — she and her fellow members eagerly registered to take part.
She told TPM that within a half hour, all the slots were filled. Her members called or registered to be placed on the spillover waitlist, in case any spots inside the venue, the Hummelstown Fire Station, opened up.
Perry, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, has fallen victim to the redistricting instituted by the state Supreme Court in Pennsylvania to remedy years of gerrymandering meant to favor Republican lawmakers. His barely squeaked by in 2018 in his newly bluer district and has already attracted a high-profile 2020 challenger in the form of Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. Per the Philadelphia Inquirer, the race has become one of national Democrats’ biggest targets.
Perry vehemently denied Keadan’s claims in a Facebook post on Thursday, accusing groups like hers of trying to reserve all of the seats just to later leave them empty in an attempt to embarrass the lawmaker.
Keadan said that her organization partnered with three others — Cumberland Valley Rising, Hershey Indivisible Team, Indivisible YORK — to lobby Perry’s office to move the event to a bigger space. No dice.
So, Keadan said, she carpooled with a friend to the event in the hopes that she’d elbow her way off the waitlist. She described a scene with more people outside the building than pictures showed inside.
“Some people we knew were inside and some friends and other members sent pictures,” she said. “It was empty! So we thought, well we should be able to go in.”
Per Roll Call, the venue could hold 200 people — and only about 60 were let in.
When she approached a staffer, he informed her that she was not on the waitlist.
“I had completed the registration and a screen popped up to tell me I was now waitlisted,” she said. “I had a Pennsylvania driver’s license, I’m a member of his district. A staffer came out — and I know her because I’ve been to Perry’s office several times — and I said ‘you know me, why can’t get in?’”
Keadan said that she left around then, though she knows that a few more people were allowed in after she departed.
“Senator Casey holds town halls and you don’t have to preregister, you just show up,” she said, referencing the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania. “This whole preregistering game is just a deterrent.”
“[Perry] does not make himself accessible to those of us who do not agree with him,” Keadan added. “He doesn’t want anyone to approach him who may have a tough question.”