Threat caused Rep. Hollingsworth to cancel Monday tax reform event

SCOTTSBURG — On Tuesday, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth triumphantly voted for the Republican plan for tax reform, sending it on to the U.S. Senate with the help of 226 other votes. But just one day before, the representative for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District had to cancel a town tall-type event in the state after a threat of violence was made.

“As emotions run high, we are not able to take security threats lightly,” Katie Webster, Hollingsworth’s director of communications, told the News and Tribune on Tuesday.

The event, labeled as a town hall, but which was RSVP-only, was organized in November by the Greater Scott County Chamber of Commerce and the conservative Americans for Prosperity group, to give individuals and business people the chance to talk to Hollingsworth about tax reform, according to Kelly Dulaney, the chamber’s executive director.

Last week, one of Republican Hollingsworth’s District 9 challengers, Democrat Liz Watson, heard about the event in Scottsburg and planned her own rally to take place outside the “town hall.”

On Sunday, the event was rescheduled to 7:15 a.m. from 8 a.m. for reasons unknown to Dulaney. Later that night, the event was canceled entirely after U.S. Capitol Police informed Hollingsworth’s team about a threat of violence.

Dulaney said that Hollingsworth had wanted to go the event, and that she was disappointed it didn’t happen. The congressman went on to participate in an unpublicized roundtable on tax reform in Clark County later that day.

On Tuesday, Webster did not elaborate on the nature of the threat to Hollingsworth upon recommendation of the Capitol Police, who did not respond to multiple calls for comment from the News and Tribune.

But Watson and around two dozen protesters visited the scheduled event site on Monday, despite Hollingsworth’s absence, giving speeches and standing in solidarity with signs.

“You know, people in the 9th district really want [Hollingsworth] to know what they think about this terrible tax bill, and they really want him to listen to them,” Watson said. “So we said all right, we’ll go anyway, and we’ll just let folks talk into a microphone and say what they think and videotape it and hopefully he’ll watch it.”

Later, Watson delivered a petition in protest of the tax reform bill with 500 signatures to Hollingsworth’s Greenwood office.

Watson, too, said she was concerned about the threat that Hollingsworth’s office talked about, but after calling the Capitol Police and local law enforcement, she was told that she needn’t worry. Just in case, Watson asked for a local police presence at her rally for protection. While there, nothing happened.

Hollingsworth has attended events before with protesters present, including one in Sellersburg in February. So far this year, he has conducted 1,655 meetings with District 9 citizens, according to Webster, but no public town halls, saying that better discussions occur in individual dialogues.

In response to Monday’s events, Watson will be staging her own town hall about tax reform on Jan. 11. The event has no location yet, but Watson’s spokesman, Brian Peters, said that Hollingsworth is welcome to attend.

Watson, an Indiana University professor and resident of Monroe County, isn’t the only candidate in the district to have announced their pursuit of Hollingsworth’s seat. Dan Canon and Robert Chatlos, both Democrats, also are running in the 2018 election.

After Tuesday’s tax reform vote, Hollingsworth’s office sent out a press release, detailing why he voted the way he did.

“For too long, our country’s 70,000 page tax code has put Hoosier families and businesses at a disadvantage,” Hollingsworth said in the statement. “Today’s vote was a vote for bigger paychecks, more jobs, and a simpler tax code bettering the lives of all Hoosiers, enabling everyone to keep more of their hard-earned paychecks and empowering all to build better futures.”

The Senate was expected to vote on the tax overhaul Tuesday night. The House will have the final say, though, after a technicality is forcing a re-vote today, when passage is anticipated.

The tax reform bill would temporarily cut taxes for most Americans, while also lowering the corporate tax rate and adding trillions to the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. President Donald Trump hopes to sign the measure by Christmas.