A member of Congress meeting face to face with constituents should not be news, but in these partisan times, it can be. Look no further than to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Harding Township, who opted to “phone it in” on tele-town halls, rather than face angry voters in the 11th District. Frelinghuysen has announced he’s retiring at the end of this term. So it is heartening to see Republican Leonard Lance continually meeting the head winds head-on.

On Saturday, he will be holding his 46th town hall in Bridgewater. It will likely be contentious. But so is democracy. Earlier this week, as reported by The Record and NorthJersey.com, the Rev. Ann Ralosky of First Congregational Church in Montclair and Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of B’nai Keshet, also in Montclair, were arrested after refusing to leave Lance’s Westfield office. The religious leaders, along with four other individuals, were advocating for Congress to pass a “clean Dream Act” this week.

When the office was closing at 5 p.m., they refused to leave and police were called. Lance was not in the Westfield office at the time.

We can recall years ago, when Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, faced loud, critical audiences during the launch of the Affordable Care Act, or even last year, when Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur, faced angry constituents after his proposed amendment to the Republican’s plan to repeal the ACA enabled the bill to pass the House.

 

Lance is expected to seek reelection in November, and he is expected to face challenges from within his party, as well as from Democrats. The veteran lawmaker is a holdover from a different kind of legislative body. In the State House, Lance challenged the McGreevey administration’s policy of borrowing to pay for the state’s operating expenses. He took his fight all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that Lance was right, but also ruled that it could not force the administration to return the money because it would destabilize the state.

In Congress, Lance’s moderate conservatism is not in style. He is not far enough to the right for some and not progressive enough for many New Jerseyans. How that plays out in the 7th District this election year is anyone’s guess. But it will not be an easy run for Lance.

 

So Saturday’s town hall is worth noting, because it is the real deal. It is not one of the Chris Christie YouTube events scheduled at a time convenient to few. Saturday morning in a middle school is a good time, for most, and the free tickets are available online. Lance’s town halls draw large crowds, and if this week’s arrests are a preview, Saturday will be lively.

While there are reports of a bipartisan budget deal in the Senate, there is no such deal in the House. The Senate plan does not include a solution for the Dreamers, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he is not bound by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to bring the immigration issue to the floor for open debate.

Like many moderate conservatives, Lance may find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time in Congress. But come Saturday, he will be in the right place: facing constituents. Frelinghuysen, before he leaves office, should do the same.