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Congressional Dems state their case at town hall

  • U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, speaks during a joint town hall meeting she hosted with U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday. STAFF PHOTOS / KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, right, D-Seattle, talks with Northampton residents Sarah Buttenwieser, left, and Jennifer Taub, second from left, before a joint town hall meeting hosted by Jayapal and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. To Jayapal's right is her aide, Danielle Fulfs. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, speaks during a joint town hall meeting he hosted with U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, seated at left, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pat Humphries, far left, and Sandy O, right, of the Oakland-based activist duo Emma's Revolution, take a photograph with U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, before their performance at a town hall hosted by the two members of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton, the Democratic nominee for the 1st Hampshire District, speaks during a joint town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jo Comerford of Northampton, the Democratic nominee for the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester State Senate seat, speaks during a joint town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, speaks during a joint town hall meeting she hosted with U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Frances Crowe, right, listens to U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, speak during a joint town hall meeting she hosted with U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz speaks during a joint town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, seated left and right, respectively, at First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A group of teens filled the front row of First Churches of Northampton for a joint town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Todd Weir, pastor of First Churches of Northampton, welcomes everyone to a joint town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, at the former Northampton meeting house on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A group of teens sitting in the front row of First Churches of Northampton listens to U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, speak during a joint town hall meeting she hosted with U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 9/15/2018 8:09:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As the battle over the federal midterm elections enters its final stretch following a heated primary season, Republicans and Democrats alike are racing across the country to secure ideological influence in some of the nation’s highest offices.

On Saturday afternoon, U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, attempted to do just that, as they held a joint town hall meeting at the First Churches of Northampton organized by the Progressive Democrats of America.

Since 2016, Republicans have had a majority in both houses of Congress. For McGovern, the upcoming election couldn’t be more important. Dubbing it the “most consequential” of his life, McGovern stressed the importance of voters showing up at the polls on Election Day.

“People say to me, ‘With all that’s going on in Washington, with all of the stuff that Trump is doing and saying ... isn’t it maddening, isn’t it frustrating?’ And the answer is, yes it is, both,” McGovern said. “They ask ‘Don’t you get tired, don’t you want to give up and do something different and just pull the shade on all of this politics?’ And the answer to that is no. Absolutely not.”

McGovern enlisted Jayapal, a rising progressive Democrat from Washington state, to help make the case for energizing voters to pull the lever. As a relatively new member of the House and the vice chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Jayapal stressed the importance of active participation in these increasingly polarizing political times.

“It isn’t just about the horrendous policies that are coming out of the White House,” Jayapal said. “It’s about the shattering of norms, it’s about the shattering of human decency.”

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, alongside recently elected lawmakers Jo Comerford and Lindsay Sabadosa gave opening remarks to the audience of almost 200 inside the church. Emma’s Revolution, a songwriting group from Oakland, Calif., sang a song of protest before the floor was opened up to the two representatives.

From 4 to 6 p.m., the two congressional colleagues discussed the status of a variety of progressive policies while also stressing the importance of electing of a majority-Democratic Congress in the fall.

As ranking member of the House rules committee, McGovern would become chairman of that same committee if Democrats gain a majority in the House. If that happens, McGovern pledged to at least bring single-payer health care to debate on the House floor — something Republicans refuse to consider.

“We believe that every person in this country ought to have first-class health care. I don’t care whether you’re Donald Trump or the poorest person in the world. We all deserve to have health care, it is a right and not a privilege,” McGovern said.

Jayapal co-founded the Medicare For All caucus in the House, of which she, McGovern and 75 other representatives are a part. She said that although the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, there needs to be a higher goal for the future.

“It is about educating our colleagues, it is about making sure we have a real pathway to get a single payer health care system because health care is not something that should only be available to the rich, it is something everyone should have,” Jayapal said.

Also on the agenda for progressive democrats, Jayapal said, is to look at the overarching problems of student debt in the country.

“No young person should be considering whether or not they go to college because they would have $60,000 in debt,” she said. “It is a huge drain on our economy.”

Halfway through the town hall, Jayapal and McGovern took questions from members of the audience on topics such as Social Security, college affordability and campaign finance.

Participants from a western Massachusetts chapter of Code Pink pressed McGovern on looking into whether he takes campaign contributions from weapons manufacturers like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

The questioners noted that Jayapal had already previously pledged to divest from contributions from private defense companies.

“I’m not sure how much I get from defense but I’ll look. They are probably getting a low return on their investment because I vote against these defense bills all of the time,” McGovern said, explaining his staunch resistance on growing militarism. “I think money is a corrupting influence on campaigns ... we will meet after the campaign and look at this.”

At the end of taking questions, the two representatives once again thanked the audience for participating, while also stressing for a final time how crucial they believed it was for Democrats to take back the House once again.

After the event, Jack Hjelt, 79, of Northampton said he was happy to see the members of Congress come and listen to their constituents.

“The demographic here was so interesting — there were so many young people,” Hjelt said. “It’s good to hear our leaders say that protest isn’t enough. You need to organize to get any progress made.”




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