Large turnout expected for U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa town hall in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Large turnout expected for U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa town hall in Grass Valley

A sign up at the Nevada County Fairgrounds alerts passing drivers of the coming town hall meeting with U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa Saturday March 18 at the fairgrounds in Grass Valley. -- photo by Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

Seats for Saturday's town hall forum with Congressman Doug LaMalfa are apparently expected to be in high demand.

Nevada County Republican Party Chairman Bob Hren suggested as much in an email this week, encouraging a strong show of support for the congressman and President Donald Trump.

"The typical opposition/protest groups will try to dominate the event," Hren wrote. "We must show up in large numbers to show we are strong too."

But some saw the message as exclusionary and intent on stacking the crowd, as it encouraged supporters to volunteer with setting up the event venue to ensure a seat at the forum. Some who received the message attempted to do so, but said they were turned down after being asked about party affiliation and whether they were on the "original" email list.

“Passions are running high, people are concerned about a lot of things and they want to talk to their congressman.”

— Mark Spannagel, Rep. LaMalfa’s chief of staff

Mark Spannagel, LaMalfa's chief of staff, said despite any mixed messages delivered with the email, the congressman wants to roll out the welcome mat for all.

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"Every constituent of every stripe is invited and welcome to attend," Spannagel said. "There is no attempt to crowd out people.

"We're doing this in the spirit of, 'How do we hear from as many people as possible?'"

Reserved seating?

LaMalfa's staff said it chose the main building of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, the site of Saturday's noon talk, based in the need to accommodate a large crowd.

"It's a huge venue," said Parker Williams, a LaMalfa spokesperson, "one that should be enough to seat everybody."

Spannagel said as many as 1,000 seats will be available, which led to the original request for help with setting up the event.

"The best way to assure seating is to volunteer for the set-up effort," Hren wrote in the email (see this story at TheUnion.com for full text of message). "For that, a list of approved set-up personnel is being compiled by Don Bessee. Only persons who are on the set-up list will be provided with the details for arrival location and early admission time for set-up. To be placed on that list and to receive specific instructions, you must contact Don Bessee …"

Susan Prince was among those who contacted Bessee to volunteer. But, she said, when she told him she was from Placer County, was registered as "decline to state" and was not on the "original group," Bessee told her he would only use those people from the original list of volunteers.

Bessee said he could not comment on behalf of the Nevada County Republican Party, but that he'd had a "number of conversations" with potential volunteers after the email was sent.

"We mentioned (volunteering) to ensure we get people to help set up," Bessee said. "It was sent to specific people and wasn't a cattle call … but again, I'm not making statements for the NCRP."

Bessee and Hren, the latter of whom said in an email that he was currently out of town, directed all questions about the event to LaMalfa's office.

"We rented every chair they have," Spannagel said. "We had a request with a few people we know, looking for help. But it's like a game of telephone, and a few people then goes to suddenly more and becomes such a big thing.

"We were just looking for a few people to help set up some chairs," he said. "(The email) was nothing from our office. It's not from us."

Highly anticipated

LaMalfa, R-Richvale, announced earlier this month his intention to host multiple town hall forums in the 1st Congressional District in March and April, in response to constituents clamoring for an opportunity to talk in person with the congressman.

LaMalfa said earlier this month in a "telephone town hall" that he looks forward to hosting forums in the district, but wants a civil discussion for all.

"What I'm hoping for is a productive conversation and not some of these things we've seen in the news, where it turns into a protest or a demonstration," he said. "That doesn't help anybody accomplish or learn anything."

Spannagel said LaMalfa has hosted town hall forums regularly throughout the district, although the last local forum was held in August 2015 at the Grass Valley City Council chambers. Saturday's event, he said, seems to be more highly anticipated than others, which typically drew "40 to 50 people." He said staff had sought out Nevada County's League of Women Voters to potentially serve as moderator.

"They declined," Spannagel said. "They didn't think they could control a crowd of that size."

Crowd control was a top concern of recent town hall forums hosted by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, who represented western Nevada County before redistricting. McClintock left a Roseville town hall with police escort. Forums that followed also drew large crowds inside and outside the venues with large groups of protestors.

Spannagel said he expects to see protestors Saturday, but that LaMalfa's staff is focused on helping keep things calm.

"We know there are Democrats and liberal groups being brought in from El Dorado County and Sacramento. We're expecting that," he said. "We're just trying to have a town hall.

"We're working hard to keep as far from creating a spectacle as we can. Passions are running high, people are concerned about a lot of things and they want to talk to their congressman."

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at bhamilton@theunion.com or 530-477-4249.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Town hall forum with Rep. Doug LaMalfa

WHEN: noon Saturday, March 18

WHERE: Nevada County Fairgrounds Main Building, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

INFO: LaMalfa’s Auburn district office at 530-878-5035; Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-3076

RADIO: KVMR 89.5 FM will broadcast the town hall forum live

FULL TEXT OF EMAIL

The Town Hall event scheduled for Saturday, March 18 is shaping up to be a very important and unique opportunity to participate in and witness a major political event first hand and locally.

Law enforcement, the fairgrounds, and Congressman LaMalfa’s staff have developed a solid plan to help the event run smoothly. It is important that we have a large turnout to show our unity, strength and support for our Congressman.

Some law enforcement town hall rules that will be enforced:

– No large signs will be allowed inside. Hand-held signs of 8-1/2 x 11 inches are OK.

– No large flags will be allowed inside. Personal, hand-held flags with NO sticks are OK.

Attire: Conservatives are all being asked to wear attire that reflects a flag motif or the colors red, white, blue.

Set-Up: The typical opposition/protest groups will try to dominate the event. We must show up in large numbers to show we are strong too. The best way to assure seating is to volunteer for the set-up effort. For that, a list of approved set-up personnel is being compiled by Don Bessee. Only persons who are on the set-up list will be provided with the details for arrival location and early admission time for set-up. To be placed on that list and to receive specific instructions, you must contact Don Bessee at: Phone: 530-559-8895 or e-mail at: chaircomstndrds@prodigy.net

If you do not participate in the set-up, then plan to arrive very early to secure a place in line. Doors are expected to open at about 11:15 am, and the meeting at noon, but lines will form much earlier.

Get out and show our support for our Congressman, and by association, for our President.

Bob Hren

Chair, Nevada County Republican Party

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