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David Cruz, NJTV
David Cruz, NJTV
When Congress adjourned for its late-summer recess, Democrats were deliberating over whether the House should move forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Now, as lawmakers prepare to return to Washington, has the period spent at home with their constituents helped them make a decision? David Cruz of NJTV reports on the mixed messages New Jersey representatives received.
When Congress closed down for its late summer recess, Democrats were facing pressure on the question of whether the House of Representatives should move forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
But as lawmakers prepare to return to Washington in September, David Cruz of PBS station NJTV in New Jersey reports that at least some Democrats are hearing mixed messages from their constituents.
Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J.:
So, again, I just appreciate you taking the time to come on out today.
First-term Congressman Andy Kim sets a genteel tone at a recent town hall meeting. In New Jersey, where even a discussion of the weather can turn into a heated debate, that is no small feat.
Kim is one of more than 40 Democrats elected to seats formerly held by Republicans in the most recent midterm. He is a moderate Democrat in a district that has been anything but safe for either party.
The Third Congressional District stretches across the southern portion of New Jersey from the Atlantic Ocean on the east to the Pennsylvania border on the west. It includes large portions of mostly Democratic Burlington County and largely Republican Ocean County.
In the last five presidential elections, voters in this district have gone for Al Gore, George W. Bush, Barack Obama twice and most recently Donald Trump. Its last four representatives to the House have been a Democrat, followed by two Republicans, and now a Democrat.
It is that kind of political split personality that can give a first-term congressman fits.
Andy has got a lot on his plate and he does have this weird district that is red and blue.
Marty Hagerty is the mother of two grown children, a self-described progressive who volunteered on Kim's 2016 campaign.
She is plugged into local and national news. She says she has read most of the Mueller report and watched the hearings. She is one of those Democratic voters calling on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.
If I were with in charge, that guy would be in jail, as would his children. If you or I did half of the things he has done and not done, we would be in jail.
Hagerty says, among her circle of friends in Cinnaminson, an upper-middle-class suburb here in Burlington County, impeachment is something they talk about all the time.
This was supposed to be impeachment August, when activists were going to pressure their representatives to make their move against the president. To be sure, constituents did bring it up.
The solution for this is impeachment.
And since coming home for recess, more than 30 Democrats changed their stance on impeachment , bringing the number to more than 130, the majority of the caucus.
But as August turns to September, the fervor for impeachment, at least in Andy Kim's district, seems to have cooled.
And, honestly, my message is, do what you need to do for the people. That is more important, your people.
On the streets of working-class Burlington City, median income just over $24,000, Thomas Anthony has a different perspective. He says pocketbook issues are more important than impeachment.
Everything is more important. Your people need somewhere to go. They need food. They need shelter. They need jobs.
Betty Wilson is a retired former New Jersey assembly member and a Democrat. She is no fan of Donald Trump, but she thinks any talk of impeachment this late in the president's first term is probably moot.
That is a question that, as we get closer to the election next year, it becomes less important to me, frankly. I just want to get rid of him.
Do you feel any pressure from either constituents or from your party to come out one way or the other in terms of impeachment?
I am really not trying to approach any of this from a political standpoint. I am not trying to think through in my mind what is going help win an election or what is going to help. Look, we have to serve the Constitution.
Kim's response to talk of impeachment is measured. He may be a first-term congressman, but he is very familiar with the district and the political polar opposites that exist within it.
For many outside of this local grocery store in Republican Ocean County, impeachment is a four-letter word.
Ridiculous. I am not in favor of impeachment.
Trump is not a politician. He is a businessperson. He is crude, he is arrogant, but he is getting the job done. And everyone is interfering with him, his ability to try and get the job done, period.
I think there is a cost to everything. And the cost for impeachment on the country would probably be damaging. And I don't see it. I don't see it — whether it is worth it or not. I don't think it is.
For Kim, addressing local concerns over the safe decommissioning of the nearby nuclear power plant, a topic of this town hall, can provide cover. It is something most everyone can get behind.
But it is no guaranteed safe haven from some voters in the district where nuance can cost you.
You're doing nothing. You, sir, do not get my vote ever.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm David Cruz in Lacey Township, New Jersey.
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