The Williamsburg chapter of a progressive political advocacy organization launched an ad campaign Saturday, criticizing U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s accessibility and urging the Springfield Democrat to meet with voters in Hampshire County hilltowns.
Indivisible Williamsburg published a quarter-page “Missing” ad in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, which accused the congressman of not listening to rural constituents and urged him to hold a town hall to discuss issues important to them.
“It’s been five years since you’ve spoken to and listened to any of us from Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, Westhampton and Williamsburg,” it stated. “All we’re saying is this: Come to Williamsburg to meet the voters in a town hall and let’s have a conversation about issues that are important to rural voters.”
Indivisible Williamsburg Founder Dan Lederer, who raised more than $600 online to help pay for the newspaper ad, said it will be followed by a handful on online ads that seek to convince Neal to meet with hilltown voters.
“While we don’t expect him to come around, we’re hoping he will,” he said in an interview. “We’re hoping that he’ll come out to Williamsburg, and we hope that we can impress upon him that there are three or four important issues specific to rural Western Massachusetts that the people in Springfield don’t know anything about.”
Those issues, include a lack of school transportation, a lack of medical facilities, oil and gas pipelines and broadband access, he offered.
Lederer, who started Indivisible Williamsburg in February, said the group decided to launch the newspaper and online ad campaign after members were unsuccessful in getting Neal to hold a town hall with constituents at the Anne Dunphy School in April.
The congressman, however, hosted a town hall-style event in Chicopee in early March.
“The build up of those events led us to put an ad in the paper to solicit readers to make a call,” he said, adding that the organization hopes a higher volume of calls to Neal’s office could help draw him to Williamsburg.
William Tranghese, a spokesman for Neal, however, offered that the congressman has held nearly 50 public events in Western and Central Massachusetts since January, while still casting almost 300 votes in the U.S. House of Representatives and fundraising to help restore a Democratic majority in Congress.
“He has been to every region of the district, and nearly every community, hosting and attending events,” he said in a statement. “Congressman Neal returns home from Washington nearly every weekend, where he keeps an active public schedule.”
Tranghese added that the area Neal represents spans 87 cities and towns across five counties — the largest geographic congressional district in the state.
Contending that the congressman, who recently became the ranking member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, “considers it an honor to represent the people of the 1st Congressional District,” he said Neal “has always welcomed the views of his constituents, and he will continue to be a strong and accessible voice for their concerns both at home and in Washington, D.C.”
The Indivisible Williamsburg ad campaign came just days after a Berkshire Eagle editorial called on Neal to spend more time in the western-most part of his congressional district.