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Oklahoma Congressmen Face Tense Town Halls In Home Districts

Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK4, speaks at a town hall meeting in Chickasha on April 12, 2017.
Claire Donnelly
Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK4, speaks at a town hall meeting in Chickasha on April 12, 2017.

Members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation are back in their districts through April 21, and many are meeting with constituents for the first time since the election of President Donald Trump.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK4, held a town hall meeting Wednesday in Chickasha.

The event was slightly tense, with many of the town hall’s 70 attendees urging Cole to take stronger stances against President Trump on issues like climate change and mental health services.

“I came because I wanted to hear what he [Congressman Cole] had to say and because I have a few things that concern me,” said Judith Blake, a Norman resident.


Cole spent more than two-and-a-half hours at the town hall, updating constituents on events in Washington.

“We [are] here to answer your question or see what we can do to help,” Cole said, encouraging those with more personal questions to talk to him after the event.

Cole’s town hall took place the day after Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-OK1, drew what the Tulsa World described as a “large and raucous crowd numbering in the thousands” at a town hall forum.


Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-OK2, cancelled a meeting with voters scheduled for Tuesday in Tahlequah citing safety concerns and an “escalation of protesters at congressional town halls across the nation.”



Rep. Steve Russell, R-OK5, is not holding any public town halls in the state during the spring recess, drawing criticism from activist groups like Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes and Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma.

The groups protested outside the Edmond Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, where Congressman Russell was speaking.


“If Congressman Russell has time to meet with business interests and have private meetings with folks that he represents, shouldn’t he also take the time to meet with us, his constituents?” said Anna Facci, a spokeswoman with CAIR Oklahoma.

“We just want to be sure that people have the opportunity to have their concerns heard, whether they’re members of the Muslim community...or members of other communities,” Facci added.

Russell’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Congressman Frank Lucas, R-OK3, has five town halls planned April 19 and 20 in Elk City, Cordell, Weatherford, Watonga and Kingfisher.

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Claire has previously worked at KGOU, where she helped create a podcast, How Curious, and hosted local news during Morning Edition. Previously, she was an intern on the city desk at WBEZ in Chicago. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School. Claire has reported on street performers, temp workers, criminal court cases, police dogs, Christmas tree recycling and more.
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