Protests outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s offices in Tampa haven’t succeeded in getting the Florida Republican to hold a town hall meeting with constituents. But they did have one unintended consequence: The staff have been kicked out of their offices by the landlord.
According to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, Rubio’s office was notified on Feb. 1 that its month-to-month lease tenancy would be terminated over the continued demonstrations outside the nine-story Bridgeport Center.
Since President Trump’s inauguration, Rubio has declined to hold a town hall, leading to demonstrations and videos of him dodging questions in airports. Constituents in Tampa held an event without the two-term senator last week, bringing along a cardboard cutout of Rubio. Demonstrators said they planned to gather in front of the Tampa office every Tuesday for the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.
“A professional office building is not a place for that,” said Jude Williams, president of America’s Capital Partners, which owns the property Rubio’s office was renting. “I understand their cause, but at the end of the day, it was a security concern for us.”
“It’s not political. It’s for no other reason than good office management. Our duty is to keep a good, peaceful office building environment for our tenants, and that’s not what they bargained for.”
In an interview with CBS4 in Miami, Rubio said he didn’t want to attend the town halls because demonstrators wanted to “heckle and scream at me in front of cameras.”
“They are not town halls anymore,” said Rubio. “What these groups really want is for me to schedule a public forum, they then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”
In 2009, Rubio had a different take on the tea party rallies that have been viewed by some as the model for the current wave of activism spearheaded by the organization Indivisible.
“Memo to establishment (in both parties),” the then-Senate candidate tweeted, “the angry folks at health care townhalls are REAL & their views are shared by a growing majority.”
According to the senator’s office, they’re looking for a new home in the Tampa area. Rubio still has six other Florida offices, with locations in Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Palm Beach.
“We are actively looking for new office space, and our goal is to remain accessible and continue providing prompt and efficient service to all Floridians,” Rubio spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci told the Times Tuesday. “Until we find a permanent new home in the Tampa Bay area, we will have a representative from our Tampa Bay office available to assist constituents on a daily basis and reachable at 1-866-630-7106.”
Michelle Broache, co-founder of the Tampa chapter of Indivisible, said getting the senate office booted wasn’t part of the plan.
“Our intention is to make sure the senator hears our voices and acknowledges the concerns of his constituents,” said Broache in an interview with the Times. “Unfortunately, we’ve requested town halls and he’s indicated he’s unwilling to do that at this point, so that’s why we’ve been present.”
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