ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) - After another tiring week in Washington and two hours sitting on a runway, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney made one stop before he headed home to see his family - a town hall at the Rock Hill branch of the NAACP.
“I know most of them didn’t vote for me,” said Mulvaney, a Republican who came into office four years ago in the tea party wave of 2010. “But I represent everybody. Not everyone agrees with me at my town halls with the tea party either.”
Mulvaney spent 90 minutes showing his presentation and answering questions from a dozen people. They asked him what can be done about the rising gap between the rich and the poor, the problems with health care for veterans, and the country’s new health care law.
Mulvaney figures he has done about 50 town halls in person and dozens of Facebook chats since he was elected. He seeks out groups that disagree with him. This is his third town hall with the Rock Hill NAACP. He did one town hall on immigration issues in Spanish earlier this year in front of about 100 people in Gaffney.
Mulvaney’s staff approached the Rock Hill NAACP, which readily accepted the invitation not long after Mulvaney took office in 2011. Since then the civil rights group has offered invitations to other Republican politicians and not one of them has accepted, said Melvin Poole, president of the Rock Hill branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“He doesn’t have to come here and talk to us,” Poole said. “I think it makes people thankful just to be listened to, even if we don’t agree.”
Mulvaney said he has done town halls with close to 500 people and one where just two voters showed up. “I answered every one of their questions,” he joked.
Mulvaney said he also learns something new just about every time. One woman in the audience asked Mulvaney if he could do anything to make more doctors accept the health insurance offered under the new federal law. He told her he wasn’t about to tell doctors what they can and can’t do. But that led to the woman talking about how many low income people have never had health insurance before and how hard it is for them to figure out how it works.
“That never occurred to me. I’ve always had health insurance. I remember navigating a plan in college,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney beat Democrat John Spratt, who spent 28 years representing the Fifth District, in 2010. The district is about as close to a swing district as one will find in South Carolina. About 45 percent of the district voted for President Barack Obama in 2012.
“You have to get out of your comfort zone as a conservative and just stop talking to yourself,” Mulvaney said. “The best way to grow the conservative philosophy is to tell people directly about it.”
For many in the audience, a one-on-one audience with Mulvaney makes him more than just a name on a campaign sign or on the news. Sandra Oborokumo asked Mulvaney several questions over a few minutes as she complained about income inequality in the United States. She didn’t necessarily like his answers, but was happy he listened.
“I don’t have a problem with Rep. Mulvaney,” Oborokumo said. “I just have a problem with what goes on in Washington, D.C.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP