Candidate’s “open town hall” actually isn’t

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

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An “open forum town hall” congressional candidate Jon T. Haugen announced for 10 a.m. today is actually closed to the public.

A misunderstanding occurred between Haugen and the hosts of the forum, said David Olson, chairman of the Fairway Village Democrat Forum. The event was meant only for residents of the Fairway Village community in Vancouver, Olson said.

Haugen, a Vancouver Democrat, is running in the 3rd Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas. When he sent out a news release Wednesday announcing the event, he criticized Herrera Beutler for failing to host a town hall meeting in almost a year.

“In contrast, Congresswoman Herrera Beutler has refused to hold an open forum town hall,” Haugen said in the news release. “Instead, she has held invitation-only gatherings.”

Herrera Beutler’s last in-person town hall took place last May. The congresswoman now uses community coffee events to meet with constituents and answer their questions. She has hosted about 20 such meetings.

Her office sends out telephone alerts informing thousands of nearby residents about the community coffee, but uninvited members of the public who show up are not turned away, Herrera Beutler’s spokesman, Casey Bowman, has said.

Fairway Village is a community for people age 55 and older. Olson said if members of the public show up to the Fairway Village candidate forum, they won’t be able to attend. He placed responsibility with forum organizers, not Haugen, for the misunderstanding.

“It did catch us off guard,” Olson said, but “it’s on us for not making it clear.”

In the past, Olson said, candidates invited to a Fairway Village forum have not taken it upon themselves to cast the forums as public events.

A call to Haugen’s cellphone was not immediately returned early Thursday evening.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics