Marshall County residents will soon have a chance to talk face-to-face with both their Congressman and one of their Senators.
After initially announcing plans to only hold two teleconferences with constituents, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Murfreesboro) said this week he will also hold town halls in Murfreesboro and Gallatin.
Gordon's first town hall will be held 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, in Murfreesboro, and will be moderated by The Daily News Journal. The exact site has not been determined. Earlier that day, he will have "face-to-face office hours" starting 9 a.m. at Patterson Park Community Center in Murfreesboro.
The original announcement did not include plans for live town halls. But a Gordon spokesman intimated Wednesday that live town halls were "on the table."
Gordon will hold face-to-face meetings the next two days in Cookeville and Gallatin, with a town hall scheduled for Aug. 26 in Gallatin.
"The Congressman has always held public meetings," Gordon spokesman Kinsey Kiriakos said. "This time around, given heightened interest in the issues before Congress, particularly health care reform, he decided that live town halls wouldn't be enough. That is why he focused at first on organizing the two telephone town halls and three face-to-face discussion meetings."
The Congressman is going ahead with plans for his teleconferences on Friday, Aug. 21. To register, visit www.gordon.house.gov or call 615-896-1986.
Meanwhile, the office of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga) said he will hold a town hall 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, at the Marshall County Courthouse. The state's other senator, Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville), visited Lewisburg July 1 and received a friendly reception.
"We've had at least 100 people and as many as 350 people at the six town halls we've held over the past two days, which are very large turnouts for these areas," said Laura Leffler Herzog, a Corker spokeswoman. "There, of course, were differing viewpoints in the crowds, but all were very attentive and respectful. Sen. Corker has found the past two days of town halls to be heartening and invigorating."
Town halls have been a source of controversy this summer.
As Tennessee's Congress members return to the state, they are trying to answer questions about health care legislation while avoiding the raucous confrontations that have turned town hall meetings into shouting matches.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) squashed rumors that he was holding a town hall meeting this week and has canceled an event at a Nashville middle school out of fear that protesters would show up.
Cooper was invited to welcome students at West End Middle School for the first day of school, he told the Tennessean, but somehow the rumor spread that he would be discussing health care reform legislation. Concerned that the school day would be disrupted, Cooper canceled the appearance.
Cooper said he has no public meetings scheduled during the congressional recess.
"I've always been accessible," he said. "I'm open to meet with anybody who requests a meeting. When I represented a rural area, you had to scare up a crowd. I had over a thousand town halls there. But in an urban area, so many groups want to meet it's hard to keep up with the invitations. I welcome that."
Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Memphis, has had a harder time during his public appearances, including one on Saturday that attracted hundreds to loudly voice their concerns about the legislation.
During another meeting Tuesday with a much smaller crowd, Cohen praised the health care bill and said opponents were spreading lies about it.
At one point, Cohen got upset when a man interrupted him and said sharply, "Sir, I have the floor! This is not Saturday night," The Commercial Appeal reported. He later apologized.