By Tim Buckland | StarNews
WILMINGTON — In what played out as a cordial downtown protest, about 100 people delivered doughnuts and valentines to the Wilmington office of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., asking that the state’s senior senator host a town hall to hear their concerns about the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“We have a group of citizens who are very concerned about their access to lifesaving care through the Affordable Care Act,” Dr. Kyle Horton of Kure Beach said when Brandon Hawkins, Burr’s constituent advocate at his Wilmington office, opened the door.
“Thank you,” Hawkins said with a smile when Horton, also smiling, handed him a box of doughnuts to represent the “doughnut hole” in coverage Horton said would be reopened if the ACA — commonly known as Obamacare — is repealed.
The group, calling itself SuitUp Wilmington, has staged several events at Burr’s office in downtown Wilmington and the office of U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., at the New Hanover County Government Center, asking for in-person town halls.
The events staged in Wilmington are part of a national, coordinated campaign by the Indivisible group protesting President Donald Trump and the potential repeal of the ACA. Earlier this week, congressional aides fled a “mobile town hall” in Georgia after protesters rained cries of “Shame!” on them.
“I think it really shows that resistance is working and that what Indivisible is doing is effective,” Horton said of the crowd at Tuesday’s event.
“I want our senators and representatives to know that there are young people like me, I’m only 30, who need their insurance,” said Samantha Worrell of Rocky Point.
The offices of Rouzer, Burr and Tillis each responded generally that they welcome citizen input and hold a variety of in-person and teleconference town halls to listen to citizens’ concerns.
The movement’s guide was purportedly written by former congressional staffers, “who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a super-majority in Congress,” according to the guide.
It says it takes lessons learned by the organizational skill of the Tea Party movement and provides “insider info” on how to influence Congress. One tactic is surprise events at congressional offices. The guide also advises keeping groups formed from local residents and to be persistent when encountered by congressional staffers, but remain “polite and respectful throughout.”
Hawkins told the group that Burr’s office had received “a lot of requests” for town halls.
“I really appreciate you stopping by,” he said to the group before saying he would follow up with Burr’s scheduler and that any town hall event would be publicly announced on Burr’s website, www.burr.senate.gov.