Sorry, Philly: Toomey Would Rather Meet Protesters in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg

The shy-of-late senator actually braved meetings with protesters in the City of Bridges and the state capital — but not, you know, in the state’s biggest city.


Yeah, you might be among the protesters who clear their schedule once a week to make their voices heard outside U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s Philadelphia office, and you might call him incessantly or even send him faxes (he gets a lot, by the way) – but if you’re from Philly, chances are you won’t get through to Toomey anytime soon.

Maybe if you lived in Pittsburgh or Harrisburg, you’d have more luck. 

This past Tuesday, Toomey invited five protesters from Harrisburg to speak with him, and apparently it went well because on Thursday, he invited five protestors from Pittsburgh to do the same. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that among Pittsburgh’s group was Jill Helbling, who organizes Pittsburgh’s “Tuesdays with Toomey” protests. (The group meets in Philly and Harrisburg as well.)

Helbling told the newspaper that the protesters sat down with Toomey to talk about the Affordable Care Act, immigration and fracking. The meeting was held two days after Pittsburgh residents staged a town hall outside Toomey’s office.

“We had a very respectful exchange with the senator,” Helbling told the Post-Gazette. “We obviously have differences of opinion about policy, but he was actively listening. We’ll see how that pans out in future votes.”

The Post-Gazette reports that in a statement, Toomey said “the conversation, while serious in nature, was civil and provided me with the opportunity to listen to their concerns.”

Toomey has not yet granted Philly’s protesters such an opportunity. Steve Kelly, a spokesman for Toomey, said the senator “is looking forward to additional meetings of this nature across Pennsylvania soon” but did not mention specific plans for Philly.

Philly Tuesdays with Toomey member Sarah Roberts said she hopes the senator’s progress with constituents in other cities will eventually spread to Philly – and all of Pennsylvania.

“As a Philadelphian, I do feel pretty offended,” Roberts said. “When is he going to be listening to people everywhere and not just swing districts?”

One member of the Philly Tuesdays with Toomey group, Nancy Chacko, happened to be in Harrisburg and was able to attend the meeting with Toomey on Tuesday. She accompanied Elizabeth Randol, a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as Alissa Packer, who organizes the Harrisburg Tuesday with Toomey’s group.

Packer said the group’s “impromptu” meeting went “very well considering we had no notice until we walked in the building that he would be meeting with us. I felt like he seemed to be genuinely engaged and listening.”

The Harrisburg group discussed President Donald Trump and his war on media, immigration and concerns about White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, among other things, Packer said.

Last week, Toomey held a telephone town hall less than two hours after it was announced. It lasted about an hour and drew roughly 15,500 listeners.

Toomey has reportedly never held an in-person town hall in Philadelphia, despite the fact that it’s the largest city in the state and that some efforts he supports – like the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act and a bill that would cut federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities like Philly – have left some constituents in the city very worried.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.