Despite of an overflow crowd of 650 people on both sides of the health care debate, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) held a town hall in Philadelphia Wednesday night that, overall, went smoothly with all attendees well-behaved.
It had a decidedly different tone from town halls held earlier this week by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), which were marked by shouting, near-fistfights and hostile questions, nearly all from opponents of reform. Sestak's meeting, though, seemed to have a better balance of liberals and conservatives -- which may have contributed to the overall harmony.
A local MoveOn.org coordinator said the organization and others made a big Internet push to get supporters to turn out, which they did in droves.
Some conservatives reportedly had another theory: that Sestak had stacked the deck by holding the meeting in liberal Philadelphia, instead of his district's more conservative suburbs.
Outside, people lined up early to get in, many of them holding signs from Health Care for America Now. But where, at other events, waiting attendees have gotten into screaming matches, these people mostly kept their cool.
That, despite Lyndon LaRouche supporters holding up signs that showed President Obama as Hitler. At one point, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, a reform opponent approached the LaRouche table and asked for a "big sign" to compete with all the Health Care for American Now signs.
The woman manning the table didn't have any, but offered him some literature showing Obama as Hitler.
"I don't want to hold up a picture of Hitler," the man said. "Let's be sensible."
Pictures from the Inquirer show Sestak speaking with some of the people holding the Hitler signs.
Inside, there was one contentious moment, reports the Inquirer. A man stood up and yelled, "I'm a veteran, and I should be heard!" before turning to leave the room.
"Chris, is that you?" Sestak asked. Chris he was. "There's a wonderful biker VFW post that I often go to, and Chris and I sometimes have disagreements," Sestak explained. "But he's actually got my cell phone and called me today."
Sestak promised the man he'd get the next question. He did, and asked whether his employer could stop providing insurance if a public plan was enacted. Sestak said no.