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Coffee clash! Ridgites respect and rebuke Rep. Donovan at confrontational coffee klatsch

Hot seat: Ridgites took Rep. Dan Donovan to task at his coffee klatsch on Saturday — even as the moderate Republican tried to play to the left-leaning crowd.
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He could have used an extra shot of espresso.

Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge) made his long-awaited debut in Bay Ridge on Saturday when he showed up — about 20 minutes late — to answer constituents’ questions at his “coffee tour” stop at Fort Hamilton High School, finally coming face-to-face with the Brooklyn constituents who have repeatedly criticized the Rock-to-Ridge rep for refusing to cross the Narrows.

In an hour and 40 minutes, Donovan answered half of the 51 questions constituents prepared in what amounted to be his first-ever in-person town hall in Bay Ridge.

There was, as promised, hot coffee on offer, but to many constituents, Donovan came up lukewarm at the Nov. 18 event, where he vacillated between trying to distance himself from his more conservative counterparts in D.C. and leaving many Ridgites thirsty when he dodged their questions, with both tactics seen as part of an effort to play to the left-leaning crowd before next year’s congressional election.

The event came on the heels of the congressman’s Nov. 16 “No” vote on the House Republicans’ controversial tax reform bill, a party-bucking move he made with only 13 of his Republican counterparts. Donovan touted the vote to bolster his bona fides as a moderate Republican — a status he further emphasized by citing his similarly independent-minded vote against the Republican healthcare repeal earlier this year, his bipartisan gun control bill, and his commitment to combatting domestic violence. And in a particularly moderate moment, Donovan replied to a woman who asked when “evil” Planned Parenthood was going to be defunded by citing the fact that only a small percentage of the organization’s work is related to abortion services.

When the crowd booed her, Donovan urged the attendees to let her have her say.

“Thank you for your indulgence,” he told them.

That move, along with opposition to the tax bill did garner respect among even liberal attendees, who repeatedly thanked him for his vote against the tax bill. But he stonewalled when attendees demanded he take a stance on other issues.

When three constituents asked him separately about protecting the principle of net neutrality — which require service providers to treat all internet traffic equally — he dodged the question each time, saying that he had to study the issue before he could offer an opinion.

“I’m just studying this now,” he said to the first question on the topic. “I’m just understanding this.”

A Democratic challenger for Donovan’s seat, Michael DeVito, Jr., showed up to the Ridge event to ask if the incumbent would support the Gun Violence Research Act, which currently has no Republican co-sponsors. But Donovan pled ignorance, saying he didn’t know which House committee the bill was in, and then threw up his hands on the question of how to reduce gun fatalities.

“These thoughts ought to be studied — I don’t know what the solution is,” Donovan replied.

And when Ridgite David Mutton asked the congressman if he wanted “better friends” than President Trump, whom the congressman has characterized as a “personal friend,” Donovan rebuffed the questioner — despite again calling Trump a “friend” later on at the event.

But the most intense moment of opposition came with the last question, when a local asked the rep to defend his June vote to roll back financial regulations instituted by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

“How could you, in good conscience, vote to allow the banks the freedom to gamble with our investments and savings?” the local asked. “And how dare you vote to weaken financial stability oversights that protect your constituen­ts.”

But the rep dodged the question.

“I’ll have to look at the vote,” he told the seething crowd.

The attendee promptly shot back, ushering in a wave of crowd anger with his reply.

“Do your job!” he said. “Read the literature — stop telling us you will.”

And as the congressman got up to leave, the attendees began chanting at him, “Do your job! Do your job!”

One Ridgite who attended three of the five coffee klatches, including the Ridge one, said that the congressman needs to back up his promises to study the issues if he wants to be taken seriously by his constituents.

“There comes a point when he needs to dig in on these issues,” said Rachel Brody. “If he follows this stuff up, and if he lets us know what he’s doing, that’s great. But so far, I haven’t seen the follow-up.”

Brody organized a peaceful protest of about 30 women who greeted the congressman at two of the five events, including the Ridge one, dressed in costumes inspired by Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” to rebuke Donovan for his vote to ban most abortions after 20 weeks. Brody said the demonstration was about making Donovan face his female constituents and own up to his voting record.

“You see these women, they’re in these costumes, and it’s become a visual shorthand for women’s rights,” she said. “He’s been great on domestic violence issues, but there are more things than that that he needs to speak up on.”

But Mutton, who asked the question about President Trump, said Donovan’s comportment on Saturday left him more convinced that the beleaguered rep would prefer sipping coffee in silence to actually discussing issues over a cup of joe.

“He seems like a personable chap who doesn’t want to give any answer at all, if it’s at all possible,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 12:17 pm, November 27, 2017
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Reader feedback

Henry from Bay Ridge says:
Bill de Blasio came to Fort Hamilton High School for a town hall too, about a year or two ago. He was asked wide-ranging questions and answered them all, and when he didn't personally know the answer, he brought advisers and department heads with him who could. They gave out contact information for issues that needed followup.

What a stark contrast to Donovan's showing. Public servants should care about policy enough that they actually have a sense of it. Regardless of Donovan's politics, he just doesn't do his homework, doesn't understand issues and doesn't deserve to represent his district.
Nov. 22, 2017, 1:03 pm
Peter Jenkins from Bay Ridge says:
Donovan has to finally realize that no matter how much of the moderate or liberal RINO he seeks to be NO AMOUNT OF PANDERING WILL SATISFY THESE LEFTIST FANATICS.

So long as Donovan as an 'R' after his name they will oppose him. That crook, Michael Grimm, was the most liberal RINO in Congress, and they still hated his positions. I hated them too, besides the fact he was and is a crroked con man.

Man up to these Leftists, Dan. They will hate you no matter what you do or say. No more pandering. Tell them straight out, for example, you will oppose funding for the baby killing Planned Parenthood abortion moill,for example. Grow a spine!
Nov. 27, 2017, 8:02 pm
Merlino Fabro from Fort Hamilton says:
In answer to Henry from Bay Ridge, a NYC Mayor has dozens of commissioners and thousands of highly-paid professional staffers and city employees at this beck and call. Congressmen get a handful of low-paid staffers. Either you are deeply ignorant of these well-known facts or extremely biased and incapable of hiding it.

Either way, I am convinced that the horde of rude, inconsiderate and close-minded liberals these events seem to draw make them a waste of time for ordinary voters and for the Congressman.

The vast majority of the people living in the 11 House district are conservative, especially on Staten Island. If it makes you angry that they elective officials much more conservative than you, then stop being a hypocrite and move to the more diverse areas of the city where liberals belong.
Nov. 27, 2017, 9:42 pm
John from Staten Island says:
The left wing are truly fanatics. They have nothing but hate in their hearts. You get some of these bitter leftist democrat women who are so quick to save the animals but have no problem chopping up unborn babies. President Trump is truly doing a great job. Who would have a problem with a president bringing jobs back to America and making great efforts to stop the illegal immigration invasion? Do you realize how many people he has saved just by arresting illegal gang bangers on Long Island alone?
The news media is nearly 100% a talking point for the democrat party as they simply attack our president for anything. Obama literally promoted a mass invasion of our nation, had more people on food stamps and counted part time and seasonal jobs as so called real jobs.
I do love the fact New York has less and less influence despite still living here for now. We have not gained congressional representation in decades and the NY electoral vote will go down once again after the 2020 census. Where democrats rule the obvious always follows- the place turns to garbage and people leave.. These bitter types wanted Hillary Clinton to be president only because she is a democrat woman, is for the mass murder of the unborn and is against traditional marriage. Liberals stand for nothing any longer except depravity as the congressman found out. Do not pander to the leftists and our President Trump is doing a great job on all front on his way to an easy re-election win.
Nov. 28, 2017, 8:56 am

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