BOSTON—Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who won last year's special election to the U.S. Senate by tapping into populist voter sentiment, has yet to hold a public town hall meeting to take questions from Massachusetts residents.
Massachusetts Democrats, who are hoping to win back the seat in 2012 once held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, are tweaking Brown for failing to schedule a meeting to let members of the public express their concerns directly to him.
"Unless they belong to a business group, attend a campaign fundraiser or go to a Republican Town Committee meeting, Scott Brown doesn't seem interested in listening to the concerns of folks in Massachusetts," state Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said Friday in a statement.
The party has placed an online clock on its website noting how many days have passed without a Brown town hall meeting.
Brown won the office by labeling Kennedy's seat the "people's seat" and burnished his Everyman image by driving around in a pickup truck and wearing a barn jacket. And while Brown hasn't held a traditional town hall meeting where voters can ask him a wide range of questions, he's been a presence in the state since becoming the sole GOP member of the state's congressional delegation.
He's spoken to local chambers of commerce, visited tornado ravaged communities in western Massachusetts and recently hosted a field hearing of the Senate Federal Financial Management Subcommittee at Faneuil Hall in Boston to discuss the local effects of federal fishing regulations.
Brown spokesman Colin Reed acknowledged the senator hasn't yet scheduled a town hall meeting, but said the senator's attended more than 200 events across Massachusetts and is focused on creating jobs.
"Senator Brown has met and will continue to meet with constituents around the state. Right now, his priority is jobs," Reed said. "Today's bad employment report is a reminder that we need to focus on pro-growth policies that will put Americans back to work."
Other statewide elected officials have held or scheduled public meetings to field questions and comments from local residents.
A spokeswoman for Democratic Sen. John Kerry said he's held five town hall meetings since Brown's election. Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray have embarked on what the administration has called a "summer conversation tour" at communities across the state.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lost to Brown in the Senate race, has also held eight to ten "neighborhood conversations" open to the public, according to a spokesman.
Brown has said his focus on jobs is even more important given the nation's struggling fiscal outlook.
The national economy generated only 18,000 net jobs in June, the fewest in nine months. The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the highest rate of the year.
"Today's dismal job numbers should serve as a wake-up call that people across this country are still hurting," Brown said in a statement. "Job creation is my top priority, and I will continue working with people of goodwill on both sides of the political aisle."
Despite the souring national economy, Massachusetts's jobs picture has brightened somewhat. In May, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts fell to 7.6 percent. The June numbers have yet to be released.
State Republican leaders have dismissed Patrick's tour as a gimmick.
"A summer listening tour is not going to get people back to work, but across-the-board incentives, consistent, low tax rates and reduced red-tape will give businesses the confidence to add jobs," said Massachusetts Republican Party Executive Director Nate Little.
Although Democrats are hoping to oust Brown, the Massachusetts Republican has an enormous fundraising edge.
Brown raised nearly $2 million during the past three months for his 2012 re-election campaign, more than twice as much as his closest Democratic rival, bringing his cash total to a hefty $9.6 million.