Janine Barber has sent letters to her senator, Pat Toomey, at least 10 times since Election Day, and tried many more times to reach him by phone. So when Toomey(R-Pa.) finally responded last week, Barber said she was surprised.
That's because Toomey's office addressed three of the fourletters to her husband, Dan.
"Clearly I typed Janine, not Dan," Barber said of the messages she sent Toomey through an online submission form available on the senator's website. "So to get these responses to my husband, I was really astounded."
Barber wrote her first letters after Election Day — handwritten, at least two pages in length — to both Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat.
She said on that letter, she might have included her husband's name because, as he was a former registered Republican, Barber thought that would carry weight with the Republican senator.
But the other letters submitted online contained only Barber's name and email address, as well as the family's address in Willow Grove.
Toomey's web submission form also requires constituents to select from one of 34 topics, from "academy nominations" to "veterans." Barber said for some letters, like one regarding Rex Tillerson's nomination as Secretary of State, she would copy andpaste the same letter underdifferent topics, like environment, foreign policy and others.
In response, Barber received four hard-copy letters from Toomey in the last two weeks.Three, dated Jan. 3, Dec. 19 and Dec. 2, were addressed to "Mr. Dan Barber."
"I said, 'Dan, he sent them to you, but I wrote to them!" Barber said, recalling a discussion she had with her husband after they opened the letters printedon the senator's official letterhead.
"What I think happened ... is that somehow my address pulled up my husband's name in their database, because he was a registered Republican," Barber added.
But the issue became more confusing once Barber read Toomey's responses. She said the one letter addressed to her, dated Jan. 4, is likely in response to the handwritten note she wrote after Election Day — the onlyone that contained her husband's name.
"It's just a little demoralizing to go through all the effort of thoughtfully composing these letters," Barber said. "To go to all this and to send something, and then to have it sort of diminished by responding to my husband, who had nothing to do with it, isn't really very nice."
Sen. Toomeyhas been targeted by protesters since Election Day in weekly meetings across the state called Tuesdays with Toomey. The senator's perceived silence on the issues protesters raise — from education to Senate confirmation hearings — has only prompted more protest.
"I just feel like Toomey doesn't share that respect [for other viewpoints] to his constituents," Barber said. "Especially as evidenced by replying to the husband, not the wife...I think it's disrespectful."
Sen. Toomey's office reached out to Barber to apologized, and later released a statement to Metro:“This was an unfortunate clerical error. Senator Toomey’s office has apologized directly to Ms. Barber for this mistake.”