Doggett at town hall: ‘Re­sist’ and or­ga­nize

‘You’re hav­ing an ef­fect,’ Austin Demo­crat tells foes of Pres­i­dent Trump.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Tilove jtilove@states­man.com

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett did Sun­day what his five Repub­li­can House col­leagues who rep­re­sent parts of Austin have not done since Don­ald Trump be­came pres­i­dent: He held a live town hall with his con­stituents.

The Austin Demo­crat’s meet­ing at Hus­ton-Til­lot­son Univer­sity’s Mary E. Branch Gym­na­sium was wrapped within a city­wide gath­er­ing of some 700 sup­port­ers of In­di­vis­i­ble — a na­tional an­tiTrump net­work with Austin ori­gins — that guar­an­teed Doggett’s jabs at the pres­i­dent would be greeted with foot-stomp­ing af­fir­ma­tion.

“My whole mes­sage can be summed up in one word,” Doggett said at the out­set. “Re­sist.”

He said the ca­pac­ity turnout, and the wild­fire suc­cess of In­di­vis­i­ble — or what he said some of his col­leagues in Congress re­fer to as “Indi­gestible” — of­fered him hope amid “one of the most trou­bling times I’ve been through.”

“You’re hav­ing an ef­fect,” Doggett said.

He said the re­sis­tance to the pres­i­dent must move be­yond march­ing, protest­ing and tweet­ing to or­ga­niz­ing and reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers block by block.

“The real hard work is reach­ing out, knock­ing on the doors of ev­ery new­comer in your neighborhood,” he said.

Doggett re­minded the Austin crowd that Travis County is sur­rounded by Trump coun­try and said Democrats can’t win in Texas with­out ap­peal­ing to at least “some of the peo­ple who voted for Trump as a short­cut to change.”

The ob­jec­tive, he said, is not to shame Trump vot­ers but to per­suade some of them.

De­spite the fact that the town hall was held at a his­tor­i­cally black col­lege in an East Austin neighborhood that used to be the heart of Austin’s black com­mu­nity, the crowd at Sun­day’s event was not any less over­whelm­ingly white than the March 4 Trump that brought some 300 sup­port­ers of the pres­i­dent out to the Capi­tol on a rainy Satur­day.

Noah Master­son, a spokes- man for In­di­vis­i­ble Austin, said they are well aware of that and are work­ing on it.

In a Q&A with re­porters, Doggett said the six con­gres- sional dis­tricts that in­clude slices of Austin are so ger­ry­man­dered to un­der­mine the city’s power that it would be “very up­hill” to de­feat any the five Repub­li­cans in 2018, but that Trump is drag- ging the coun­try “down­hill” at such a pace that it isn’t be­yond the realm of pos- sibil­ity.

Doggett said that while he lives within a few blocks of Hus­ton-Til­lot­son, the gym where the town hall was held is in the district of U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, an Austin Repub­li­can whose views are

di­a­met­ri­cally op­po­site his. In the ab­sence of town hall meet­ings by the Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress in the area, In­di­vis­i­ble groups held their own town halls in each of the dis­tricts dur­ing the week of the Pres­i­dents Day con­gres­sional break, and the ab­sent con­gress­men were rep­re­sented by a card­board

cutout or an empty chair. The card­board ver­sions of Williams and U.S. Rep. John

Carter, R-Round Rock, were at Sun­day’s event.

Doggett re­newed his call for an in­de­pen­dent prose- cu­tor or bi­par­ti­san cit­i­zens’

com­mis­sion to look into the elec­tion ties be­tween the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and the Trump cam­paign. He said it was OK with him if the man­date for that investigation in­cluded what he

con­sid­ers the out­landish charge, made by the pres- ident in a se­ries of tweets Satur­day, that Pres­i­dent Bar a ck Obama or­dered Trump Tower wire­tapped dur­ing the cam­paign.

“If they want to throw in those out­ra­geous as­ser­tions that Pres­i­dent Obama did some­thing he doesn’t have the power to do, that’s fine with me,” Doggett said.

Doggett joked with the crowd that Democrats in Congress might have been ask­ing the wrong ques­tion. “It should be who in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t have con­tact with the Rus­sians,” he said.

Doggett said the an­swer to Trump’s Rus­sia ties might lie in his tax re­turns, which, un­like his pre­de­ces­sors, he has re­fused to re­lease. Doggett, a mem­ber of the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee, has sought with­out suc­cess to force the re­lease of Trump’s re­turns, and he said, “We are go­ing to stay af­ter this is­sue.”

Doggett warned that Repub­li­cans in Congress, fu­eled by “fear, fan­tasy and fa­nati­cism,” will push this week to re­peal Oba­macare, though they have re­fused so far to let any­one read their re­place­ment plan.

Doggett’s town hall lasted for an hour in the gym, and then when the In­di­vis­i­ble pro­gram re­sumed, Doggett met for an­other hour out­side with con­stituents who still had ques­tions.

In­di­vis­i­ble be­gan late last year with a guide to ac­tivism to thwart the Trump agenda pre­pared by for­mer con­gres­sional staffers, led by Doggett alumni. There were, as of the end of last week, 5,801 ver­i­fied In­di­vis­i­ble groups na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing at least two in ev­ery con­gres­sional district.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett had a town hall with con­stituents on Sun­day in Austin.

JONATHAN TILOVE / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Af­ter his town hall in the gym at Hus­ton-Til­lot­son Univer­sity, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett con­tin­ued to an­swer ques­tions out­side for an­other hour.

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