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Waco Tribune - Flores engages with local voters, plans mid-April town hall

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WACO, March 4, 2017 | comments
By Phillip Ericksen

Waco’s congressman said he has been able to reach out to voters in the district whose political tendencies don’t align with his positions and at least have constructive conversations.

Rep. Bill Flores said liberal constituents he met with are concerned about the direction of the United States under President Donald Trump, but he thinks they walked away from meetings “thinking I don’t have horns growing out of my head.”

“On areas like leaning into the immigration question, I think they’re surprised. They think there’s a standard conservative approach that’s anti-immigrant, but it’s not,” Flores said. “I think they’re pleased with that.”

Flores’ top immigration priority is border security, followed by fixing the visa program, not a wall dividing the United States from Mexico, he said.

Without naming names, Flores also said there are some people working in the White House who concern him.

“I’ve told (constituents) those names. That made them feel better,” Flores said.

Flores said he met with about 40 voters throughout the district in the last week of February. Texas’ 17th Congressional District includes Waco, Bryan, College Station and sections of Austin.

“Some parts of our population are really, for lack of a better term, freaked out about having Donald Trump as president,” Flores said. “Because of that, they’re taking every action and usually coupling it with one of his extreme statements from his campaign and putting them together and coming to the worst possible outcome. It’s made it pretty difficult to have some of these conversations.”

Many Republican lawmakers were met with rancor at town hall meetings last month on issues including Trump’s executive orders on immigration and GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Town hall meetings

Flores, who got more than 60 percent of the vote in November to win a fourth, two-year term, will host town hall meetings in mid-April.

“Not all of them, but some (town hall meetings across the country) have been unruly,” Flores said. “It’s unfortunate. If you really want to have engagement with an elected official you have to have a rational dialogue. You can’t have a dialogue when you’re screaming your lungs out and carrying a sign. That’s not dialogue. There’s no value to be added in having that kind of a disruptive event.”

Mary Mann, president of Texas Democratic Women of Central Texas, said she and a small group met with Flores in Waco last week.

“We had a very cordial meeting,” Mann said. “We appreciated his time. We felt that he should have had a town hall, and I told him that in our comments.”

Mann also said Flores should speak with more families affected by hard-line immigration policies and should have taken a more forceful support of investigations into Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

“This whole Putin-love concept really bothers me,” Flores said. “I’m not sure I get it.”

Flores said he supports the two congressional committees investigating Russian ties.

“I have the utmost confidence in them,” he said. “When they say we need a special investigation, we’ve already got two investigations, and this is the place to start.”

Flores also said he has pulled back from social media as a way to interact with voters.

“We’ve gotten to where we don’t even try to answer on Twitter or Facebook,” he said. “By giving an answer that’s tangible, it’s just an invitation to have them scream at you. My social media is not kid-friendly anymore because of the things that other people post. It’s unfortunate. It’s a tool that used to be pretty effective, but until people can start following the golden rule — treat me the way you’d want me to treat you — it’s just not effective.”

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