Though Jayapal represents Washington's 7th district, she said she accepted Indivisible WA-8's invitation to speak at a town hall in the 8th because she was concerned about the country as a whole, and because people in the 8th deserved to know what was going on in Washington, D.C.
The meeting at Green River College in Auburn was difficult to find. There was a windy road, a weird parking lot, a heavily wooded campus, and then a semi-complex building to navigate, but approximately 120 people by my count found the town hall on a sunny Saturday afternoon, including at least three candidates running for Reichert's seat in 2018.
Jayapal wasn't the only speaker scheduled that afternoon. Constituents from towns all over the district, which was redrawn in 2012 to straddle the east and west sides of the Cascade Mountains, came out to tell their stories and to rally the troops for a summer of canvassing and resistance.
Concerns about the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare dominated these speeches.
Wenatchee resident and US combat veteran Matt McColm drove the 100 miles from his north-central Washington city to talk about what would happen to him if the GOP were to repeal Obamacare. He said he uses the ACA to supplement healthcare coverage he obtains through the VA, and that he'd pay double in premiums if the Republicans got their way.
Though many of the stories were heartbreaking, Julie Negrin of Mercer Island pledged to put her life on the line.
Due to a hereditary condition, Negrin has recently contracted four separate cancers. If the GOP votes to repeal Obamacare, which could happen as early as tomorrow, Negrin said she'd refuse medical treatment, a choice that would kill her. "Without [the ACA] I'm dead anyway," she said.
Negrin explained that she was going to such extreme measures because she's worried that people are indifferent about the fight to save Obamacare, but the presence of the people in the room did offer her some comfort. "When I see you guys here, that's what makes me feel like I can rest," she said through tears.
After that emotional bombshell, Jayapal walked onto the stage to whoops and hollers and lots of applause. She was a rockstar in the room. Members of the Trump campaign were meeting with Russian lawyers, the Republicans were trying to kick them and their children off of healthcare, and their own Congressman wouldn't even pop by the community college auditorium to answer their questions about any of it. But here was this congresswoman from Seattle, someone who had at least been to Washington D.C. recently, to tell them what the hell was going on over there.
Before she took questions, Jayapal took the opportunity to thank Dave Reichert for voting NO on Trumpcare (despite the fact that he voted for it in the House Ways and Means Committee), and then caught everyone up on things she's doing in Congress to fight against Trump's agenda, and, more importantly, to fight for her own.
"We can't just be an opposition party, we have to be a proposition party," she said, before listing several bills she has recently cosponsored.
She advocated for Medicare for All, College for All, 100 by '50, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and she made a bit of news when she announced that she'd been granted a hearing on her resolution of inquiry to investigate connections between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia.
But what could the concerned citizens of District 8 do to wrestle back their country from Trumpists? Jayapal recommended walking down their own blocks and having conversations with their neighbors, in addition to calling friends and family who live in deep red states. For her part, Jayapal said she'd hold more town halls in other, redder districts such as Washington's 5th. "Any ground ceded to the GOP will be taken," she said.
In general, the town hall served as a pretty standard progressive rally to get people pumped up for the canvassing season. National organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sent representatives to table the event, as did local organizations.
Varsha Nair heads up an Issaquah-based organization called "Where's Dave?" The group's goal, she told me, is to build a team of people in Issaquah who can organize against Dave Reichert long-term. The organization gathered 30 volunteers at the town hall "and built some great relationships that’ll be important for the campaign moving forward," Nair said.
Speaking of campaigns against Reichert: so far, three people have decided to run for Dave Reichert's seat. Those people are Tola Marts, the city council president of Issaquah; Jason Rittereiser, a prosecuting attorney from Ellensburg; and Mona Das, who lives in Covington and owns a mortgage company. I saw all three candidates glad-handing at the town hall and spoke with them about Jayapal's speech.
Guess what? They all liked it.
None were wary of a Seattle politician from the 7th trying to tell the fine people of the 8th how to think and feel. Each one welcomed Jayapal's visit, saying some version of "information is always a good thing" and "hearing about what's going on in D.C. from a congressperson makes it personal for constituents."
Each dismissed Reichert's concern for his own public safety at town halls, which he cites as his reason for not holding them. Das focused on all the hugging and excitement buzzing around her, and said she didn't hear one disparaging remark from anyone. Rittereiser said he didn't agree with Dave Reichert "on almost anything," and that he especially didn't agree with him on the town hall issue. "Any safety concerns can be remedied," he said, adding that he spent an afternoon at the town hall and "it seemed like a very nice place to be." Marts said he thinks it's "reprehensible that [Reichert's] using the enthusiasm of groups like Indivisible to not meet with his constituents," but understood that ducking his own constituents has been the congressman's longstanding policy.
But when I asked where each candidate agreed with Jayapal on policy, each emphasized different areas of agreement. Rittereiser said he was "absolutely for measures that will increase the minimum wage," and added that he was for universal healthcare "whether that’s a single payer system or some other system." When pressed, he said he wasn't sure which kind of healthcare system on that spectrum would be best for the 8th at this point.
Das said she was going to spend her summer canvassing and knocking on doors to hear from constituents themselves on those issues, but added that she's been a longtime champion of women’s rights, of immigrant's rights, and of the environment.
Marts found common ground with Jayapal on the issue of education. "I was happy to hear her reference free college for all, because I think two years of community college or technical college or vocational school is important," he said, but added that he'll take his lead on issues from what he hears out in the district.