HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – A town hall for Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry seemingly was not open to everyone.
“Most of us immediately responded when we got the email. It was already sold out,” said Gaylon Morris, who was part of a large crowd of protesters outside Perry’s event, angry that they weren’t being allowed in. “That’s part of what a town hall is: to engage in conversation with your representative, and that’s what he’s not allowing us to do.”
Much of the crowd outside had issues getting tickets, which Perry’s campaign said were required — along with a valid photo ID showing 10th congressional district residency — to get into the event.
Inside, Perry talked issues, everything from higher education, to Russian election meddling, to abortion, to the crisis at the border.
“There are a lot of people abiding by the rules and they are being disrespected, in my opinion, by letting other people just walk right past them to go to the front of the line,” Perry said.
He also touched on why he doesn’t support Medicare for all.
“It invites every single person that has paid into the system their whole lives and every single person that has never paid in a dime,” he said, adding that such a proposal would bankrupt the system.
On why he doesn’t support a federal minimum wage, Perry said we should be worrying about the maximum wage, not the minimum.
“When we raise the minimum wage, the people at the lower end of the economic spectrum are the ones we hurt the most. Employers don’t hire them,” Perry said. “This is America. We want everybody to reach their maximum potential, not their minimum. I want people making as much money as they can.”
Immigration brought out the most heated moments of the nights. Perry said whole-scale use of taxpayer money should not be used to fight the crisis at the border.
When asked if he thinks children in border camps are being treated properly, Perry was met with boos.
“They are being cared for as best as they can under the circumstances,” Perry said, claiming around 5,000 people stream through the spaces in between ports of entry every day. “We have an absolute obligation to be humane and to be judicious and work as quickly as we can, and to make sure that anybody that comes across legally or illegally, is cared for appropriately.”
Perry also took a question about public education funding, mentioning Harrisburg City schools being in receivership. He says a new competitive model is needed.
“If you are relegated to going to a failing school district, there has to be an option for you,” Perry said. “If you’re living in the city and you’re relegated to sending your kid to a failing school district, that is not what America should be all about.”
One question for Perry was about balancing Americans’ right to vote and making sure that outside influence isn’t affecting elections.
He cited a finding from former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in his response.
“Not one vote was changed due to Russian interference, and not one election was changed due to Russian interference, but Russian interference means other things,” Perry said. “What they are doing is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence what you think, Facebook ads and internet ads.”
Perry also talked about his condemning of female genital mutilation, discussing a resolution he introduced to combat a problem he says is threatening nearly half a million American girls.
“There’s no medical reason to do this and, so, if you kind of equate it to other things, there is nothing like it anywhere else,” he said. “I advocated for Pennsylvania as one of the few states that has not outlawed this yet to outlaw it.”
Despite the empty seats and protesters outside, one small business owner thought the event went well, agreeing with Perry on his stance on genital mutilation and the minimum wage.
“We all need to come together to talk, to hear everyone’s point of view. I think Congressman Perry does a beautiful job of that,” said Lisa Vranicar Patton, of Mechanicsburg. “I don’t think raising the minimum wage is the answer because I think it’s an entry-level position.”
Some people who were outside protesting were eventually let in. They had been placed on a waiting list prior to the event, a Perry spokeswoman said.
Still, dozens of empty seats remained.
As the event wrapped up, we tried to get an interview with Perry to ask him why seats were left empty and why it seemed so many constituents were left out, but he was whisked away and we never got a chance to get answers to those questions.
Perry spokeswoman Brandy Brown said they “planned for about 100 people” and estimated that many people showed up. A quick count of the room, however, and the available chairs revealed at least 150 seats were available and nearly 50 were empty.
Not everyone outside could be accommodated, Brown said, because there was a concern that giving a ticket to someone on a waiting list would take one away from someone who RSVP’d and just never showed up. Brown explained the campaign had no way of knowing if those RSVPs would eventually show up, and they were being safe by not giving those tickets away.
Brown denies that they tried to control the audience or select who got into the town hall, saying in a statement last week:
“We did not ‘pre-select’ the audience. Our highest priority is the safety and security of all attendees, and this event has been created with that in mind in concert with advice from US Capitol Police and the House Sergeant at Arms. We hope this environment may also facilitate a more constructive dialogue with our constituents, as, sadly, many groups around our Nation have looked at these forums as an opportunity to conduct political theater and shut down discourse. This is not the first, nor the last town hall, as the Congressman will continue to meet and interact with thousands of his constituents through a wide variety of forums.” – Brandy Brown, Communications Director, Congressman Scott Perry