Politics & Government

Kay Granger spends summer at home talking to Republicans — and few others

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, is surrounded by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington as she emerges from a closed-door session with fellow Republicans.
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, is surrounded by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington as she emerges from a closed-door session with fellow Republicans. AP

Kay Granger’s talking almost exclusively to Republicans and staying out of public view this month during Congress’ lengthy summer recess.

The popular 10-term congresswoman hasn’t held publicly advertised town halls, citing security threats, during the recess that began July 28 and runs through Sept 5. But she’s talking to Republicans behind closed doors, and her staff held back invitations to her appearance in Decatur Monday to minimize the risk that Democrats would show up.

She’s hosted a fundraiser for a Republican from Florida, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and on big issues of importance to Texans, she’s talking to national conservative radio almost exclusively.

She won’t be interviewed by the Star-Telegram, or offer any details of her activity during a period Congress intends as a time lawmakers can familiarize themselves with constituent concerns.

Granger has cited security threats as the reason she’s not holding town hall meetings, even though eight other Texas GOP lawmakers – including Rep. Joe Barton, who was shot at in June during a congressional baseball game – have been holding such events.

“It’s important that people like myself make ourselves available to the people they represent,” said Barton, who has held three town halls during the recess.

“The left is very upset that Trump won and they are exercising their right to attend town halls, which I think is a good thing,” said Barton, who instituted a lottery system and time clock at his events to deal with the uptick in activists. “I feel an obligation to honor the First Amendment… that literally means make myself available to my constituents.”

Granger’s staff has consistently said she would accommodate constituent questions through private meetings, but did not respond to multiple requests for examples of such meetings.

At a Decatur appearance Monday, the congresswoman told Kay Parr, Parker County Democratic chairman, she had stopped doing town halls long before President Donald Trump’s victory fueled an increase of activism on the left. Granger said she didn’t find them productive, because some participants shout and derail meaningful discussion.

Parr tried to question Granger at the event, but Granger suggested Parr reach out to her staff instead to set up a private meeting with them.

Eric Marney, Wise County GOP chairman, said he specifically waited until just before the Decatur event to send invitations, in order to keep it closed to Republicans only. The Star-Telegram was not provided details about the event, but attended after the Wise County Messenger published the location.

Granger’s office said she would sit down for an interview with the Star-Telegram to discuss her new role as chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee – a job with significant impact on the defense contractors of Fort Worth – but canceled it. She did not respond to requests to reschedule.

At the Decatur Civic Center event, Granger offered the first window into her thinking on Washington’s major issues.

“We cut defense and misappropriated what we needed for eight years with Obama, so we knew we had to rebuild our military,” Granger said of her defense role. “We did write a bill, and it’s significantly higher than it’s been in the past.”

That bill now heads to the Senate, where Granger said she hoped members “have the backbone to do what the House did.”

Of Trump, Granger said she hoped newly-installed Chief of Staff John Kelly would add “discipline” to the White House. Granger called Kelly a “very good friend,” who she’s worked with extensively.

“One of the biggest problems [for lawmakers in Washington is] trying figure out and be supportive and respectful [of Trump],” when major policy shifts come out of the White House “almost every day,” said Granger.

Granger also criticized a recent Star-Telegram story, which published comments she made to conservative radio host Mark Davis August 16 about white supremacist marches in Charlottesville four days earlier.

Granger, who co-chairs a House task force dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, waited four days to weigh in on the Charlottesville events, offering her first comments on Davis’ show. In that interview, she agreed with Davis that there political violence is coming from “both sides” of the aisle, and the left does not get enough attention.

After the Star-Telegram published her comments, she issued a statement the following day condemning “white supremacist groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis that promote bigotry, antisemitism, racism, and violence.”

Granger acknowledged that delay at the Decatur event.

“We’ve got to all speak up, if we have some threat like what happened, that horrible situation in Charlottesville… as an elected official, I need to speak up,” she said.

She also repeated complaints that violence on the left, such as the baseball practice shooting, were going overlooked.

“I do think there are two sides, the people who don’t stand for our values, and the people who do,” she said. “We better all start taking sides on that and ask questions, because I think we’re all in trouble.”

It was the sort of comment that stirred controversy when Trump made similar remarks.

Barton, asked about personal safety at his town hall, said it was more important now than ever for lawmakers not to hide from their constituents.

“They tend to be a little more confrontational than the normal attendee,” Barton said of the left. “But then again, nowhere is it written that people have to be polite.”

Contact: Andrea Drusch: adrusch@mcclatchydc.com