Sen. Joni Ernst is coming to Iowa City for a town hall meeting

Sen. Joni Ernst Town Hall

Iowa Memorial Union (Main Lounge) — Friday, Sept. 22 at 2:30 p.m.

Sen. Joni Ernst on stage during a town hall at Coe College. Friday, March 17, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann.

Sen. Joni Ernst will hold a town hall meeting in Iowa City on Friday, Sept. 22. The event will be held at the University of Iowa Memorial Union.

The town hall is part of Ernst’s annual 99 county tour, and will be the first public meeting she has held in Johnson County on one of those tours. Ernst’s Johnson County stop on her 2016 tour was at a meeting of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois in Coralville. On her official U.S. Senate website, Ernst has the following description of the tour stop in 2015: “I toured Oral-B Laboratories in Johnson County and met with folks.”

Visiting all 99 counties in one year is known in Iowa politics as “the full Grassley,” since Sen. Chuck Grassley takes great pride in his unbroken streak of visiting every county each year since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980. But according to a 2016 report published by Progress Iowa, a full Grassley can be surprisingly empty.

Progress Iowa reviewed the published records of Grassley’s meetings in the state between 2011 and 2016, and found that during those years he held only three town hall meetings in Iowa’s ten most populous counties. Two of those meetings were held in Scott County (2011 and 2012) and one was held in Pottawattamie (2011). He held no town hall meetings in Johnson, Linn, Polk, Story, Black Hawk, Woodbury, Dubuque and Dallas. Those eight counties contain 43 percent of the state’s population.

Responding to questions from The Gazette about the Progress Iowa report, a Grassley spokesperson said the senator prefers to a mix of formats to meet the public, and was not deliberately avoiding public question-and-answer session in heavily populated areas.

“I’ve found that without a variety in the type of meetings, I end up talking to roughly the same people all the time year after year,” Grassley said in a January press release announcing the start of this year’s visits. “I always enjoy seeing familiar faces, but I have a responsibility to hear from as many Iowans as I can. So when some can’t come to me, then I go to them.”

Grassley currently has no public meetings scheduled in Johnson County this year.

Ernst’s town hall will be held in the UI Memorial Union Main Lounge. The room will be configured to hold 1,200 people.

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