U.S. Rep. David Rouzer is one of the first Republicans in North Carolina’s congressional delegation to hold a town hall this year, answering questions from a rowdy crowd in Brunswick County Monday afternoon.
Rouzer lives in Johnston County and represents the 7th District in southeastern North Carolina. He stood on stage in an auditorium at Brunswick Community College in Bolivia for two hours, his answers prompting a mix of cheers and boos – and some chanting – from the crowd.
One question came from a young girl. “There are kids in my class who are afraid their parents will get deported,” she said. “Why do you support that?”
Rouzer’s response: “The president and his team are focused on the criminal element, and they should be focused on the criminal element. The rapists, the murderers and the burglars that are on the streets should go home.”
That statement didn’t satisfy some in the crowd who chanted “Answer! Answer! Answer!” Rouzer shushed the audience and repeated his response, “the focus of the president and his team is on the criminal element – that is the answer.”
Another questioner asked the congressman if he supports appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. “The House Intelligence and Senate Intelligence committees are doing their jobs, and will continue to do their jobs. Next question,” Rouzer said.
Some Republican members of Congress from North Carolina have refused to hold town halls this year. U.S. Rep. George Holding of Raleigh has said town halls are merely “opportunities to protest.” U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have said they don’t hold town halls because they say “telephone town halls” where thousands call in to ask questions are more effective.
Tillis took questions Monday at a Durham Chamber of Commerce event, but he faced criticism that the location was kept secret and attendees had to pay a $25 admission fee. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro is one GOP exception: He’s held two town halls so far this year.
Rouzer, however, said he likes the public town hall format. “This is either the 13th or 14th town hall I’ve done, and I will continue to be accessible to the public and have town halls as long as I serve,” he said Monday.
Still, some speakers criticized Rouzer for scheduling the event on a Monday afternoon, when many constituents were at work and could not make the trip to Brunswick County.
Rouzer said Monday was the only time that didn’t conflict with the busy schedule of votes in Congress, and that he’d initially planned to wait until April to hold a town hall.
“With everything that was on the table, I thought I’d rather do it sooner than later, and this was the time it worked out,” he said.
Rouzer’s town hall isn’t the only one scheduled this week. U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat, is holding one in Cary on Monday night at 7 p.m. That event had to be moved from the Cary Theater to the larger Cary Arts Center to accommodate expected crowds. Price also has town halls scheduled for Saturday in Chapel Hill and March 13 in Raleigh.
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Rouzer was the first Republican member of Congress from North Carolina to hold a town hall meeting this year. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker held the year’s first GOP town halls in the state.