Martha McSally Sen. Martha McSally
Photo by Oskar Agredano/Cronkite News

Sen. Martha McSally hasn’t hosted an in-person town hall to answer questions from Arizona constituents in three yers. She has held tele-town halls, but even in her last one in November, she disconnected callers who challenged her.

Lawmakers like Rep. Ruben Gallego said that’s part of the job: answering the hard questions from constituents.

“Martha doesn’t defend her position, and doesn’t even really communicate with [her constituents] in the most basic American foundational manner, which is the town hall,” Gallego said Sunday afternoon to about 30 people at the Missing Martha McSally Town Hall event in central Phoenix.

The event, hosted by Honest Arizona and coordinated with Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Indivisible, and Arizona Health Care Voters, was an invitation for McSally to join and answer questions.

McSally was a no-show, however, so Rep. Gallego was on hand to answer questions on her behalf, primarily on health care.

The Congressman told attendees that those individuals who don’t host town halls “either have nothing good to talk about, or they’re ashamed of something.”

“We’re on year three without having an open meeting with your constituents,” he said. 

He added that last week McSally was on stage with Trump for two hours talking about what she’ll do for Arizona, so why can’t she spend 30 minutes speaking with Arizonans for a town hall? 

For almost an hour, Gallego answered questions from attendees, including on H.R. 3, also known as the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which passed the House but is currently stalled in the Senate. It has an estimated Medicare and non-Medicare patient savings of more than $480 billion over 10 years and would allow for Medicare to negotiate prescription prices.

Gallego compared this approach to what the Veterans Health Administration does for veterans like him. He said the VA is able to negotiate prices to get the most competitive rates on prescription drugs to keep costs down. He asked, why can’t the same be done with Medicare?

“Pharmaceutical companies can still make profit, but not at the expense of life saving drugs,” he said. 

Niles Harris, executive director of Honest Arizona, said H.R. 3 has already passed the house, and “McSally could go to her boss and say they should pick up the bill and pass it.”

He said, “There’s not a necessity for another bill or another piece. The biggest piece is this one has passed. There’s no need for a Senate version. If she wants to show political courage, she can take on H.R. 3 and help get it passed in the Senate.”

This is not the first time Gallego held a town hall on McSally’s behalf. In 2017, Gallego hosted an event in McSally’s district in Tucson to address the American Health Care Act of 2017 when she was in Congress. He said he “packed an auditorium and took questions on her behalf.” McSally was not in attendance.

At Sunday’s event, Gallego said he will continue to highlight McSally’s record across the state.