CHARLESTON -- A local group of political activists will be organizing again after their more public appearance a few weeks ago, this time inviting U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and his Democratic opponent Carl Spoerer to a town hall meeting.

Charleston Women's Huddle Actions, which last organized a Charleston rally on International Women's Day, invited the two to a town hall scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Rotary Room of the Charleston Carnegie Public Library, 712 Sixth St.

Ellen Wolcott, Huddle group founder, said the town hall was organized to make sure the representative and his challenger hear the "voices of 15th Congressional District."

The Huddle group was born from the actions of the Women's March demonstrated across the world in January. With a focus on equal rights for all, the group also is in opposition to President Donald Trump's policies.

According to Wolcott, Shimkus will not be attending the local event next week, however, Spoerer will be. Wolcott said the group has been trying to get Shimkus to come to a town hall meeting unsuccessfully.

Jordan Haverly, Shimkus spokesman, confirmed Shimkus will not be attending the event, saying it was scheduled and advertised before the representative got an invitation.

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"Given that it was set up and advertised without our knowledge or involvement, it seems as though the organizers are more interested in media attention than they are in actually hearing from the congressman," Haverly said.

Wolcott said they organized the event during the House of Representatives recess when she said Shimkus should have more time available to attend. She added because of the time constraints when scheduling the event and the representative's history with town halls, it seemed like it was the only option to get him to come.

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Shimkus does not attend town hall meetings but urges one-on-one dialogue with constituents instead, Haverly said.

"Congressman Shimkus has never held town halls, which he has stated 'too often exclude all but the loudest voices and benefit those who prefer grandstanding political theater over meaningful and constructive dialogue,'” Haverly said.

Wolcott said one-on-one conversations might be good in theory but she alleged they are absurd in the context of reality with a district with hundreds of thousands of people to represent.

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Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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