Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas represents the majority of Arlington, the nation’s 50th largest city with a population of 380,000 residents.
While congressional town halls have drawn big crowds around the country in recent weeks, Barton is hosting two town halls on Saturday an hour away from Arlington in towns with populations of less than 800 people.
The longest-serving member of Texas’ delegation will host two town hall events on March 11. The first is set for 11 a.m. at the Frost ISD Performing Arts Center in Frost, Texas. The second is set for the Milford Senior Center at 1 p.m in Milford, Texas.
“I appreciate the overwhelming interest in town hall meetings this year,” Barton said in a statement. “The people of rural Texas communities deserve the opportunity to speak with me, as do those in the more urban areas. I will be holding many town halls this year – this is just the start.”
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Ellis and Navarro counties are friendlier territory for the long-serving Republican than Tarrant County, where the county seat is Fort Worth. Donald Trump won more than 70 percent of the vote in Ellis and Navarro, compared with just over 52 percent of the vote in Tarrant.
And both towns where Barton will take questions on Saturday are much smaller than Arlington. Milford has a population of 728, while Frost has a population of 643.
728 Population of Milford, Texas. The population of Frost is 643.
“Congressman Barton will be hosting several more town hall meetings as he traditionally does in April,” Barton spokesman Daniel Rhea said. “This will include a meeting in Tarrant County.”
Congressional Republicans are under pressure to host town hall events and take questions from constituents, and many constituents have used the forums to complain about Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.
Barton is the second member of Tarrant County’s congressional delegation to hold a town hall in recent weeks. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, attracted a crowd of about 1,000 people to a town hall event in Flower Mound last weekend.
Some Republicans who have opted to host town halls have accounted for crowds by scheduling events in large spaces, but Barton doesn’t appear to be anticipating a big crowd at the Milford Senior Center event.
“I don’t know really,” said Anita Tune, a cook at the senior center when asked how many people could be accommodated. “I know when they have dinners here and stuff there’s probably 75-100 people. I know they’ve had it here before and they say that not very many people show up.”
A spokesman for Barton said the office is working on having a larger site nearby if necessary.
“The senior center holds about 50 people,” Rhea said. “We are working to have a nearby larger site on standby if need be.”
The Frost Performing Arts Center, despite its location in a small community, is much larger. The auditorium officially seats 475 people, “but there’s plenty of room in the back so they can easily seat over 500,” said Frost Independent School District administrative assistant Debbie Franks.
Nearby Milford, where Barton has hosted events in the past, is not a well-trafficked area of his district.
“To be honest with you there is nothing in this town,” Tune said. “We have a little old convenience store and that’s it, not a lot of people come through Milford.”
This post was updated at 4pm with a comment from Rep. Barton.
Rep. Joe Barton’s March 11 town halls:
11 a.m.: Frost Town Hall
Frost ISD Performing Arts Center
208 Wyrick St.
Frost, Texas 76641
1 p.m.: Milford Town Hall
Milford Senior Center
109 S Main St.
Milford, Texas 76670