On April 28, 2022, the Lancaster County chapter of Moms for Liberty hosted a town hall event in Ephrata. The event focused on giving locals an opportunity to ask the three attending political candidates questions, a format designed to foster more engagement between the audience and the candidates than the typical town hall would. Through that, citizens were able to get a clearer understanding of the candidates they could support in the upcoming Republican primary on May 17.
The three candidates that were in the spotlight for this event were Rick Saccone, who is running for lieutenant governor; Mike Miller, who is running against incumbent Ryan Aument for the state Senate seat in the 36th District; and Dave Zimmerman, who is the incumbent running for the state House seat in the 99th District.
After each candidate gave a five-minute introduction, citizens came to the microphone to ask the candidates questions. The moderator was the chairwoman of the Lancaster chapter of Moms for Liberty, Rachel Wilson-Snyder, who also helped organize the event.
“We were pretty excited to hold this town hall and to do things a little bit differently,” Wilson-Snyder told The Lancaster Patriot. “We spent a lot of time trying to encourage citizens to, you know, kind of step up to the mic themselves and get involved in civics by asking a question — having hopefully brought a well-thought-out question to the town hall — to promote dialogue and interaction between citizens and their candidates.”
The purpose of this event, which was more of an old-fashioned town hall as opposed to the typical, modern-style debate between political candidates, was to put citizens in a more active role. Our country’s founding fathers and founding documents put an emphasis on an engaged, active citizenry, with an expectation that every American citizen would take part in their own government. To facilitate participation from the attending citizens, Wilson-Snyder and the other organizers chose to invite only one candidate for each seat in order to prevent the town hall from turning into a debate where citizens would be left to simply watch candidates dictate the conversation. That sort of environment often shifts the focus off the audience’s immediate concerns and centers instead on the different platforms of the opponents.
“We wanted to do something different,” she said, “where citizens themselves were the ones asking the questions, vetting the candidates, and choosing for themselves what those questions would be.”
In recent years, the emphasis on learning civics has been on the decline, and Pennsylvania has allowed its education standards regarding civics to slip as well. That is why one of the objectives of Moms for Liberty is to empower individuals to become involved in every level of politics. “Our role is to get citizens active in civics and more educated and involved,” Wilson-Snyder said.
Citizen involvement is vital because civics is not only about the rights of citizens, but also about their responsibilities — a concept that the majority of Americans are no longer used to. “As a citizen in this country, as a citizen in our local communities, we actually have responsibilities,” Wilson-Snyder said. “We are to be involved in local government, local elections. We should be vetting our local candidates. We should be asking them questions that are important to us and communicating with them our needs and concerns, since they are to be representing us — and that can’t happen without communication directly between citizens and candidates. Which is part of why we planned the town hall the way that we did, to open up that communication and to be that bridge.”
At the event, the audience asked questions covering a wide variety of hot-button issues, including problems seen in Pennsylvania’s education system and the need to establish and maintain secure elections. All three candidates gave passionate answers that showed zeal for the conservative cause, and the candidates also pointed out some ways for Pennsylvanians to learn more about what is taking place in Harrisburg.
The town hall received plenty of positive feedback, Wilson-Snyder said, from both the audience and the candidates. She and the other organizers were pleased with the turnout, the response to the event, and how many citizens stepped up to the challenge to get directly involved.
She added that she hopes that people will continue to turn up, get involved and vote responsibly, no matter who those votes are for in the end. “Part of civics and our responsibility is to get educated and informed about our candidates,” she said. “The town hall was one opportunity for that, but if you didn’t have a chance to get active and involved there, it is definitely not too late. Most of these candidates and their teams, they want to hear from you. They would love to have a conversation with you. So please, pick up the phone, call them, ask your questions. I was very happy with how responsive so many candidates or politicians have been to citizens getting involved and getting more active. So, I would encourage people, even if you missed the town hall, to still take the opportunity to get active and involved and ask your questions before you vote.” Although there are no more town halls planned by Moms for Liberty before the primaries, more public events will take place in the future. The Lancaster chapter of Moms for Liberty has a private Facebook group, and the chapter also communicates through other local, parent-oriented Facebook groups to inform the community about upcoming events and the civics-oriented work the organization conducts. The Lancaster chapter will soon be added to the Moms for Liberty national website, momsforliberty.org.