Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) faced a raucous and often combative town hall Thursday night, when he fielded questions well past the event’s planned ending from constituents who seemed to know he faces re-election in less than two years.
“Health care for all!” chants began before the event even started, the Arizona Republic reported. And it didn’t let up from there.
— Indivisible AZ 5 (@IndivisibleAZ5) April 14, 2017
— Ryan Cody (@RyanThomasCody) April 14, 2017
Flake had set out rules for the town hall ahead of time, including that signs and other “objects that create a disturbance” would not be allowed in. Many attendees brought red and green sheets of paper to indicate their agreement instead.
The first-term senator answered questions on everything from gun rights to single-payer health care, to perhaps predictable protests.
“I will continue to support, as much as I can, our free-market system of health care,” he said at one point, per the Arizona Republic. “[S]orry we have a disagreement about this” he said in response to questions about Planned Parenthood funding.
The pseudo-filibuster of former President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, he said to boos, was “not without precedent.”
Asked about President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, the Washington Examiner reported, Flake said it “doesn’t have to be a wall all the way through Texas and Arizona,” contradicting the President’s stance.
Still, he was largely deferential to the President’s prerogatives. Pressured on the mounting costs of Trump’s near-constant weekend travel, according to Business Insider, the senator said he wasn’t “going to to tell the President where he can and cannot spend his weekends.”
“That’s something we’ll deal with when we deal with the budget,” he said.
Flake ended up extending the event an hour past its 8:30 p.m. deadline. At one point a school counselor asked him to stand up for common decency in the face of a President often seemingly lacking it.
“For the first time I’ve had to go to classrooms to deal with the Trump effect,” she said. “I’m horrified by students who are feeling harassed because they are disenfranchised. I need strong leaders in Washington, D.C., and in my state to stand up, especially as a white man, to protect my students by saying, ‘This is not allowed. This is not allowed.’”
The event received plenty of attention from Democratic and progressive groups as well.
The Democratic National Committee reportedly sent emails asking supporters to “get in Jeff Flake’s grill.”
“Cash in your retirement folks…the world’s about to end,” Indivisible Arizona wrote on its Facebook page when the event was announced Monday. “Senator Jeff Flake is holding a real-life, in-person, town hall.”