Constituents Hold Town Hall Meeting Without Congressman

"With or Without You" town hall meetings targeting GOP lawmakers are being set up by progressive groups nationwide

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Photo credit: Star Tribune

Plymouth, MN – Constituents of Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-CD3) held a “With or Without You” town hall meeting at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth on Thursday night, drawing a few hundred people who came to the meeting that the congressman did not attend.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, over 500 people packed into the church while a few hundred more waited outside, demanding that Congressman Paulsen meet with his constituents. Social media postings of some CD3 residents state Paulsen has not held an in-person town hall meeting for several years and distributed professionally made “Where’s Waldo” style cupcakes to the meeting’s attendees:

The event was organized by Kelly Guncheon, a financial planner in Plymouth, and has been in the works for the past few weeks.  A post on the “Feb. 23 Erik Paulsen’s ‘With or Without Him’ Town Hall Meeting” Facebook page states: “The Erik Paulsen “With or Without Him” Town Hall Meeting began in our (Holly and Kelly Guncheon’s) living room just three weeks ago. We were discussing what we can do in the new era of government and politics and thought we could help our Representative decide to engage with our community by doing the work for him.”

Guncheon told the press that he organized the town hall to show Paulsen that constituents in the West and North-metro district do not share his views and want to talk to him.  In a New York Times article last week, Guncheon talked about his plans for the town hall meeting and described himself as an “independent”. He said he planned to project legislation Paulsen had supported onto screens during the town hall and have participants write questions that will be delivered to the Congressman’s office after recess.

A quick Google search shows that Guncheon is involved with “Westside Progressives,” an organization describing itself as “a non-partisan educational forum that encourages civil and thoughtful discussion about progressive issues.”  The group meets once a month at Epiphany Church in Plymouth, according to the website.

Regarding his leadership in Westside Progressives, Guncheon told the February 2017 issue of Plymouth Magazine he is not affiliated with any party but said,  “I’m an avowed liberal and progressive, so I admit to that.”

A January 24th, 2017 article in the Sun Sailor reports Guncheon spearheaded the effort and coordinated buses to get 224 women from Plymouth to the Women’s March in St. Paul on January 21st.  Guncheon said he was inspired by what he called misogynistic rhetoric from the election and said it was “never a question” whether he and his family would participate in the march.

As for his business, a September 2, 2015 “Investment News” article reported the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board sanctioned Guncheon’s company, Guncheon Financial for misrepresenting its method of payment on the Certified Financial Planner website, which is against CFP Board rules.

Paulsen’s office declined to comment about Thursday night’s town hall and instead referred to a statement that the congressman’s office sent to the Star Tribune stating Paulsen has held “more than 100 in-person town halls, telephone town halls and Congress on Your Corner events.  He has already held two town halls this year and will continue engaging with constituents on all sides of the issue in a productive manner.”

In addition to last night’s event, the Facebook page for “Erik Paulsen ‘With or Without Him’ Town Hall Meeting plans to meet on Saturday, February 25th at 11:30AM at Paulsen’s Eden Prairie office at 250 Prairie Center Drive.  “Last night’s turnout was inspiring but we woke up thinking “what’s next?” We’ll be at Paulsen’s office at 11:30 am tomorrow. We hope the parking lot is big enough for us all!” exclaims the post on the Facebook page.

Liberal, progressive and Democrat organizations like MoveOn.org and “Indivisible” have organized crowds to attend the town hall meeting for Republican lawmakers around the country while they have been on recess this week.  The New York Times reported that MoveOn.org is nationally mobilizing its members to attend the town hall meetings through its website ResistenceRecess.com to help people find upcoming meetings.

A similar “with-or-without” meeting was set up in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District for Congressman Jason Lewis at a West St. Paul library at the same time as the Paulsen event on Thursday night, with another meeting being planned at a Burnsville library on Saturday afternoon.  Lewis was invited earlier in the week to a town hall in Northfield which was organized by Cannon Valley Indivisible, but he did not show up. According to the Faribault Daily News, several hundred people came to submit questions that will be sent to Lewis’ office.  In a letter, Lewis said that his voting schedule in Washington has kept him busy and has met with constituents and does not endorse “a partisan, political point-scoring event filtering down from nationally organized ‘Indivisible’ groups with handbooks from Democrat former staffers.”

On Wednesday, Alpha News attended the town hall meeting held by Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer at the City Hall in Sartell, Minnesota. An estimated 1,000 people showed up to talk to Emmer about healthcare and immigration.  Although the crowd inside the town hall was mostly respectful, shouting and chanting from the people lined up on the sidewalk outside the city hall could be heard inside the meeting room.

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