Congressman Ted Yoho couldn’t get through his opening statements at a town hall event Monday without being heckled by constituents — and it didn’t stop there.
Those in attendance chose not to heed to Yoho’s early warning of controversial views that he knew would get a rise from the crowd. Still, not even Yoho expected the responses he received.
“I really, really expected them to be a little more civil,” Yoho, R-Gainesville, said after the event. “This was the rowdiest crowd.”
He said he thought attendees would be more “respectful” to him and to citizens seeking answers, but a majority of his responses were met with boos and quick counters before Yoho finished any of his responses.
Monday’s event was Yoho’s third of a string of town halls across areas he represents. Yoho represents Florida’s 3rd congressional district, which includes Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Putnam and Union counties and northern Marion County.
People lined up hours before the event kicked off at Lincoln Middle School just to tell the congressman how they felt about the current presidential administration, his decision making and the local impact it all has.
David Gardner, 37, wanted to talk about a proposed billion-dollar cut in after-school programs. Trish Ingle, 48, wanted Yoho to answer for a repeal in internet privacy laws.
Desika Narayanan, 36, hoped to talk health care.
“I’d like to hear more about why he’s opposed to universal health care, or even any step in that direction,” Narayanan said. “I’d like to hope to convince him that national health care is in our best interest.”
Hundreds of people poured into the auditorium, many waving signs reading “agree” or “disagree”. Some signs were more blatant, reading “Lock up Trump for treason” and another depicting President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin kissing.
Questions were fielded by a lottery system of randomly picked tickets and ranged from health care and climate change to taxes and planned parenthood.
“You’re not doing anything about the national debt,” one man said.
“I’m sorry, I think I just brought it out here,” Yoho said, referring to a graph displaying on a projector. “But I think people are yelling or showing their signs, we have to deal with this.”
Yoho told the crowd he wouldn’t support Planned Parenthood, which sparked more boos.
“My fights not with Planned Parenthood, “he said. “My fight is with no tax payers money going to any organization that does abortions... outside of incest, rape or risk of the mother. That’s my opinion.”
Yoho also told the crowd he didn’t believe humans were the main cause of climate change, that marijuana should be deregulated and a state decision, and that he is co-sponsoring a bill that allows silencers to be purchased without background checks, citing the Second Amendment.
“My main job is to uphold the constitution,” he said.
He also said he would fight to ensure cuts are aren’t made to science programs, as outlined in Trump’s proposed budget.
Yoho’s main talking points, however, were widely ignored by the crowd. He spoke of discretionary spending versus increased mandatory spending and attempted to lay out his plan to address the issue. He said if the rate continues, social security will be cut by 25 percent in 12 years.
Yoho will host another event tonight in Putnam County at the county commission building, at 2509 Crill Ave., in Palatka beginning at 7 p.m.
“To sit there and yell at people when somebody asks me a question and I’m trying to answer it and I can’t hear it... it’s very disrespectful,” Yoho said. “And I’ve got kind of a personality that I kind of fight back a little bit, you know, in a playful way and I hope that you guys saw it was playful most of the time. Because if we can laugh at ourselves even though we disagree, I think we can get more done.”