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Casey to hold town hall Sunday in Pittsburgh

| Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 4:03 p.m.
In this July 25, 2016 file photo, Sen, Bob Casey, D-Penn., speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is continuing his series of town-hall meetings across Pennsylvania with a stop Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Jacklin Rhoads, a spokeswoman for the Scranton Democrat, said Casey started the series last month in response to requests from constituents. He previously held town halls in Philadelphia and Scranton.

“We expect a lot of questions on a number of topics,” Rhoads said.

People appear to be more interested in hearing directly from their elected officials this year, Rhoads said, noting that phone calls, emails and letters to Casey's Washington office and seven district offices across the state are up nine-fold compared with last year.

Many lawmakers, however, haven't appeared to be as interested in meeting with constituents.

In late February, The Associated Press reported that several Senate Democrats seeking re-election in states where President Trump rolled to victory were avoiding in-person town hall meetings and holding virtual forums via phone or social media instead. Some of their Republican counterparts ducked the meetings amid intense backlash from critics of Trump's early actions in the White House.

Casey, who is expected to seek re-election next year in a state that Trump won by less than a percentage point, held his first town hall in Philadelphia on March 12. Before this year, Casey held 17 town halls over his first decade in Washington.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, hasn't held an in-person town hall meeting in Pennsylvania this year. He conducted a town hall by phone and online in February. He drew criticism because his office publicly announced the event just 90 minutes before it started.

“Sen. Toomey traditionally holds his town hall meetings during the summer months. Over the past six years, he has held over 60 town halls, both in-person and via phone, and visited every county in the state at least twice,” spokesman Steve Kelly said, noting Toomey's forums included 14 traditional, in-person town halls.

Toomey's office announced Wednesday via Twitter that Toomey would participate in another so-called tele-town hall — similar to his February event — at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Casey's in-person town hall on Sunday will be held in the seventh-floor auditorium of the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave. Doors will open at 2:15 p.m. The event begins at 3 p.m. and is scheduled to last 90 minutes.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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