The branch had issued the invitation in December, asking the Republican senator to attend a “town hall” meeting sometime in early 2012. In reply, a scheduler in Brown’s Boston office sent an email to the Rev. Talbert Swan II, the branch president, thanking him for his “ kind invitation” to meet with members but turning it down.
“As you might imagine there are extraordinary demands on the Senator’s time and we do our best to accommodate worthwhile requests such as yours,” wrote staffer Maria M. Coakley. “Unfortunately, due to the schedule of the U.S. Senate, the unpredictability of Senate business and the high volume of requests he receives, we must unfortunately decline.”
The note ended: “We appreciate your understanding.”
Not so fast, Ms. Coakley. In a letter to Brown, Swan made it clear that the branch did not “understand,” or accept, the senator’s decision to turn down the invitation.
“While I understand the demands of your extremely busy schedule, I remind you that you serve a very diverse constituency across the Commonwealth, including members of the NAACP,” Swan wrote. “It is no secret that you are in the midst of a tough reelection campaign and will be spending quite a bit of time in the Commonwealth in the months to come. It is inconceivable that you cannot find any time during the course of this entire election season to meet with our members in Springfield, which IS part of the Commonwealth, which you represent.”
Swan ended the letter asking Brown to “reconsider” his earlier decision, noting, “To summarily dismiss our desire to meet with OUR senator is quite concerning.”
This isn’t the first time Brown has faced accusations of dodging Western Mass. constituents who, presumably, might not offer the warmest reception. Last August, on a photo-opp visit to Amherst to climb Bare Mountain, the senator was met by protestors calling for raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans; some in attendance felt that Brown tried to ditch the protestors—including a man in a wheelchair—by rushing on to the mountain trail.
This time, Brown—perhaps eager to avoid the kind of criticism he faced after that less-than-stellar visit to the Valley—changed his position. By Friday, Brown had set up a “tentative” appointment to meet with Swan in March, the Springfield Republican reports. In addition, Jerry McDermott, who runs the senator’s state office, will come to Swan’s Springfield church next month.
Brown, of course, is battling this year to hold on to his Senate seat, against presumed Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren. Recent polls demonstrate the tightness of the race; in December, a UMass-Lowell/Boston Herald poll had Warren leading Brown by seven points; two months earlier, a Western New England University poll had Brown ahead by five points.
Warren has also been invited to meet with the Springfield NAACP; the date of that visit has not yet been set, Swan told the Republican.