Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Town Hall a Chance for All to Be Heard | Buchanan Meeting Bucks a Trend among Republicans | Buchanan Meeting Bucks a Trend among Republicans

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Town Hall a Chance for All to Be Heard | Buchanan Meeting Bucks a Trend among Republicans | Buchanan Meeting Bucks a Trend among Republicans

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

Give Vern Buchanan credit. He's venturing where few of his fellow Republicans in Congress dare these days: a town-hall meeting.

Buchanan, whose House district includes Sarasota and Manatee counties, will host the meeting at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. He moved it to the 1,700-seat Van Wezel from a New College auditorium to accommodate what he expects to be a large audience.

That's a safe bet. Both liberal and conservative activists have been targeting recent town-hall meetings of members of Congress to ask pointed questions and voice concerns on controversial issues such as health-care reform, immigration and Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Some liberal groups have published guides online that tell constituents how to get called upon for questions and urging them to "be polite, but persistent."

The conservative Heritage Action website published a national map and calendar of scheduled town halls -- including Buchanan's -- and urged its followers to "show our lawmakers that we demand a full repeal of Obamacare and that the loud liberal voice is not the only one."

Activists from both sides are following in the footsteps of the tea party, whose protests in 2009 against Obamacare intimidated moderate members of Congress and energized a Republican movement that regained the House majority in 2010.

Some of the recent town-hall meetings across the country have gotten so large and raucous that most House Republicans are forgoing the traditional gatherings with constituents. The website Vice News, citing Legistorm, reported: "For the first two months of the new Congress, the 292 Republicans have scheduled just 88 in-person town hall events -- and 35 of those sessions are for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin."

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican whose district includes parts of south Sarasota County and Charlotte County, has been among the brave souls to hold such a meeting. …

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