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San Diego Congressional Reps Hold Town Halls

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.
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.

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

Congressman Duncan Hunter Holds Raucous Town Hall
San Diego Congressional Reps Hold Town Halls
San Diego Congressional Reps Hold Town Halls GUEST: Alison St John, north county reporter, KPBS

It is Monday, March 13. The top story on midday edition, Darrell and Isaac and Duncan Hunter have been able to count on conservative and friendly constituents during their years in Congress but not this year. They became the latest Republican representatives to face loud, large, and raucous town hall meetings. Kenny was at the townhomes meeting in Ramona. 250 people squeezed into the main stage theater. Hunter got things off to a start with an opening remark. I'm ecstatic to have president Trump as president. He said he is in favor of his plan to secure the ardor -- border. We will repeal Obamacare. [ Chearing ] Hunter started taking questions from the audience. He was asked about the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. He said Obamacare is ruining the health care system. The Republican plan takes a better approach. It remains -- removes oversight. We allow insurance company to pop up. That is without in our overarching tyranny over. We will have less expensive insurance and healthcare. Hunter was asked about his recent history of using campaign funds to pay for tens of thousands of dollars of personal expenses including family vacations. He told the crowd, he paid everything back. I took responsibility for. I fixed it. It is the end of story. [ Chearing ] CNG go constituents Lynette Williams said she liked his position on Obamacare We have to repeal because the first step is socialized medicine. Bethany said Hunter seemed disconnected from the effects of Trump's policy. If he does not care about the things that are affecting us, he should not represent us. He will be up for reelection next year. Hunter won the election last year by a solid majority but that is not the case for Darrell Isaac. He won reelection by the smallest margin in the nation last November. It gave added fuel to the attendees at the townhomes meetings in Oceanside on Saturday. Joining me is Allison St. John. Welcome to the show. I am glad to be with you It was reported 1000 people turned out for the Townhall's. Is that what you saw? There were people packed into the hall but that -- there were more than that that showed up. It could be a couple of hundred who were there who did not get in and they marched up and down with banners protesting. What was the atmosphere inside? The atmosphere was a tentative. It was a little confrontation, most of the people in the audience were people who had serious questions to ask and were not as support. I would say it was contained in several. This Townhall, it came days after the Republicans relief -- released their health care plan. Did he get a lot of questions about that proposal? Most of the questions were about that. There were questions about immigration and the Russian investigation and climate change. Most of the questions were about that. Some people told personal stored its -- stories. One asked how he would vote on the new GOP plan. How will you vote on the plan? [ Chearing ] The current bill is not in a form that I approve of. I am trying to change it. Ultimately, the affordable care act has problems that have to be fixed. My intention is to keep working on the fixes. That question remained unanswered. He talked about his philosophy of healthcare and the incentives that would be needed in order to change it. You know, he did not say how he would vote, particularly on this plan. He did contrast it with a plan he said tested which was to make the plant that is available to federal employees available to everybody. There is a lot of questions about the plan he proposed as well. What other topics came up? On imigration, he talked about the need to look more into temporary immigrant worker visas for the agricultural industry in California. There were a lot of questions about the Russian investigation. Also, because he has been soliciting constituents to ask them what is the most important issue for them, environmental issues or health care reform.'s there was a question about climate change from the gentleman who threw his hat into the ring to challenge him on the next election. He said, he does not support cutting EPA funding. He talked about his involvement in actions as a young man. He said this is a difficult issue and it is a balancing act and it requires a delicate balance to deal with climate change. I spoke with this political Alice. This is a no-win situation because they have to face worked up voters. Do you think anything positive came out of the meeting? I do. There were people who came out and said they felt opposed but there were others who came out saying, at least he heard the constituents and he heard a lot of voices. I have been speaking with Allison St. John. Thank you. Thank you. Susan Davis held a town hall Saturday. Scott Peterson is holding a Townhall today at 5:30 this afternoon at Claremont high school.

San Diego Congressional Reps Hold Town Halls
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.

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.

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

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