If you walked past the produce area at Midtown Foods Monday afternoon, you would have had the unusual option of speaking to a member of Congress as you picked up your veggies.
He calls it “Congress on Your Corner,” and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., was holding court almost within arm’s reach of the apples, but, he said, that’s how it should be.
When legislators can get by with huge majorities in their district, they no longer need to “stand in the tomato aisle,” Walz said. The problem with gerrymandering Congressional districts, Walz said, is that it creates a lack of competition.
Walz, who is running for his sixth term, said that the Congress on Your Corner meetings were an opportunity for him to meet with people and get the general pulse of the district.
“People are frustrated,” Walz said. “People express their concerns.”
The meetings were started at grocery stores specifically in 2007, Walz said, because it’s a good place to get a number of people who aren’t expecting the opportunity to voice their opinions to someone.
The line got up to about eight people at its longest, but those who spoke to him talked at length on a number of issues.
Veterans came with their concerns about the Veterans Administration, seniors with concerns about Social Security, others were there to talk about the oil industry or how the two major political parties finance themselves.
Laurie Sell, who was there to speak to Walz about the oil industry among other things, said she wanted to express her opinion but the event itself seemed part of a standard procedure for election years.
Sell said she had seen Walz in St. Charles at another grocery store in the past.
“This is typical,” Sell said. “The average person really has little impact on the government.”
Still, there were a several people waiting for most of the hour-and-a-half Walz was in the store.
Sara Severs, Walz’s deputy chief of staff, said the stop was Walz’s last before going back to Washington D.C. to resume work, but they would be scheduling more as soon as possible.
Severs said they haven’t had any topics that dominate what people wanted to talk about, and the questions and concerns range from very individual to very broad.
Severs said they are trying to get into as many grocery stores as possible throughout the year and be “where it’s accessible to folks.”
“I think we’re always trying to figure out how to maximize our time with things like this,” Severs said.
Walz is up for election in November, and running against previous opponent Jim Hagedorn for the 1st Congressional District seat.
In 2014 Walz won 54 percent of the vote to Hagedorn’s 46 percent, and raised significantly more funds in his campaign.