Never say never. Two Washington congressmen who initially resisted holding health care town halls are appearing events tonight in the area.
6th District Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, will host a town hall at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton from 7:30 to 9 p.m. tonight.
Meanwhile, 3rd District Rep. Brian Baird has moved tonight’s town hall to a new location: Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE in Olympia. It will run from 7 to 9 p.m.
Both men took heat from constituents for initially declining to hold such events. Baird criticized what he saw as a counter-productive tone of some of the discussion. “It’s a lynch mob mentality out there,” Baird said. “There is an ugliness to it.”
Dicks, who’s not big on town halls in the first place, worried the angry organized opposition could become a “model for future legislative activism, threatening to impede legitimate communication between individuals and their representatives in Congress.”
Baird switched course, embarking on a barnstorming tour of Southwest Washington, where he’s been met with large and sometimes hostile crowds. (Check out this clip, for instance.)
More quietly, Dicks announced he’d hold two events (the other one is earlier in the day in Port Townsend.)
Ironically, both congressmen face a bigger and more emotional audience than they would have had they simply relented early on. Rep. Adam Smith’s town hall in Lakewood was comparatively tame, with most of the friction between rival factions in the audience, not aimed at the elected official. (Meanwhile, Washington sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell will escape back to D.C. without having held town halls.)
It will be interesting to see what happens tonight in Olympia, which seems likely to attract a mixed crowd of Evergreen State students, state government workers and Cabela’s shoppers in from Elma for the day. We plan to pick up coverage from our sister paper, The Olympian.