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San Diego Congressional Reps Hold Town Halls

Editor's note: This story has been updated to report on what happened inside the town halls.

San Diego Congressional Reps Hold Town Halls

GUEST:

Alison St John, north county reporter, KPBS

Transcript

Republicans Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter, and Democrat Susan Davis, all held town hall meetings on Saturday.

Three members of San Diego’s congressional delegation held town halls on Saturday morning, taking questions about health care, immigration and other issues.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-49, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-50, both faced contentious crowds at their events in Oceanside and Ramona, with protestors outside and audience members bearing green “AGREE” and red “DISAGREE” placards inside.

By Alison St John

Rep. Darrell Issa stands onstage at the Junior Seau Recreation Center in Oceanside to take questions from constituents at a town hall meeting on March 11, 2017.

In contrast, at San Diego State University, Rep. Susan Davis, D-53, took questions from a cordial audience of 1,200.

One attendee called the event, "friendly."

There was frequent shouting at Hunter’s town hall inside the Ramona Mainstage, which held about 250 people. Hunter answered questions drawn at random from a green bucket next to the stage.

His answers got a mix of boos and cheers, especially when he said of the Affordable Care Act, “I would like a full 100 percent repeal.”

Hunter also spoke in support of the U.S. military, and took responsibility for some of his campaign money being used for personal expenses. “The buck stops here,” he said. “It was my responsibility.”

He also challenged some audience members on the subject of President Donald Trump’s claim he was wiretapped by President Obama.

“I think that Donald Trump did have his phone conversations and emails intercepted. And those of you that believe in democracy and free elections to tell me that if a sitting president whose party is running for the presidency can wiretap and intercept another candidate’s phone; I would think that you would be for freedom and liberty, not for an Orwellian government that controls us, which is what we have right now,” Hunter said.

By Kenny Goldberg

A crowd waits for the start of a town hall with Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-50, at the Ramona Mainstage on March 11, 2017.

After the event, San Diego constituent Lynette Williams said she liked Hunter’s position on Obamacare. “We have to repeal, because the first step out of Obamacare is socialized medicine,” she said.

But Bethany Amborn from El Cajon said Hunter seemed disconnected from the effects of Trump’s policies. “If he doesn’t care about the things that are affecting us, then he shouldn’t represent us,” she said.

In Oceanside, Issa took questions from audiences of about 500 people at two back-to-back meetings at the Junior Seau Recreation Center. Most of the questions were focused on the GOP’S proposed health care reform. Issa said the current bill is not in a form he approves.

“I am trying to change it , but ultimately the Affordable Care Act has problems that have to be fixed, so my intention is to keep working on the fixes,” he said.

Issa also told the audience he does not support a reduction in EPA funding, and said dealing with the effects of increasing carbon emissions is "a balancing act."

After the meeting, Jennifer De La Fuente of Encinitas said she was glad she’d come to hear what Issa had to say. “My hope is that when he’s sitting in hearings he’s going to… remember all those people yelling and saying ‘what about my health care?’  That that’s going to be in his mind when he’s making these tough decisions,” she said.

By Kenny Goldberg

Protesters gather outside the Ramona Mainstage to wait for a town hall hosted by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-50, on March 11, 2017.

Issa livestreamed his meetings on Facebook, a strategy also followed by Davis at SDSU. She told her audience that she’s never seen a time like this, and she accused the president of muddling the waters “to distract us from the fact that he’s not helping us address the challenges that we face.”

Davis said she found that frightening. “We’ve been so busy defending against terrible executive orders and worrying about the latest dangerous three a.m. tweet that we tend to lose focus, really, on the most important issues in front of us, which really continue to be jobs and our economy,” she said.

Despite the dissent present at the Hunter and Issa town halls, the gatherings were peaceful. Oceanside police say Issa paid for additional security at his venue. In Ramona, sheriff’s deputies conducted foot and vehicle patrols. In a written statement the San Diego Sheriff’s Department said of the Hunter event: “No arrests were made and the direct interaction between deputies and the attendees received praise as it was both welcomed and appreciated.”

Issa also expressed his appreciation on Twitter.

According to City News Service, Rep. Scott Peters, D-52, has a town hall meeting scheduled for Monday evening in the Clairemont High School Auditorium from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.in Clairemont Mesa.

Meanwhile, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-51, does not have any public meetings scheduled, according to his congressional website and Facebook page.

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