Hundreds of people showed up to see U.S. Representative Martha McSally on Thursday in Sahuarita. For the first time since President Donald Trump was elected, McSally held an in-person town hall that even she admitted was at times rowdy.
About 250 people were allowed inside, while others protested outside chanting things like "do your job."
Doors opened at 3 p.m. and the town hall began at 4 p.m. at the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ at 17750 S. La Canada Drive. McSally answered questions for about 90 minutes.
The event was moderated by Dan Shearer, the editor of Green Valley News, and questions were taken from audience members and submitted beforehand to the newspaper.
Shearer says the paper received around 700 questions to ask McSally. Half of them were about the Affordable Care Act, Shearer said, and the other topics included President Trump and his alleged ties to Russia, immigration and Planned Parenthood.
Some voiced frustrations that McSally was not answering questions, and wanted her to get to the point. McSally did say at one point that some issues required complex answers.
"I think I can speak for everybody here that it's always good to be face to face with our employees," one man said.
Below are a few of the topics discussed and answers from McSally both at the town hall and in an interview afterward.
HEALTHCARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY
As lawmakers move towards repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, McSally says she wants to provide more choice and affordability.
McSally says people with pre-existing conditions will get access to healthcare. Any replacement that moves forward, McSally said, will keep that in place.
There will be a stable transition period for several years for those who have been able to get on Medicad expansion and subsidies, McSally said. As we move to different model patients she want everyone to know what to expect and says there will be a "stable off-ramp."
McSally said she is committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare.
INVESTIGATING PRESIDENT TRUMP'S TAXES AND RUSSIA
There is a bi-partisan investigation going on in the House and Senate regarding Russia meddling into U.S. elections, McSally said. At this point she understands the FBI is investigating as they should.
"Russia is not our friend," McSally said, to much applause.
McSally was trained at Air Force Academy during the Cold War.
Audience members shouted her questions while she was answering, frustrated she didn't say whether or not she would favor an independent investigation into alleged Russian meddling.
"At this point I favor the FBI doing their job, and favor bi-partisan House and Senate committees which are doing ongoing investigations," McSally said. "You may not agree with me, but that's what's going on right now."
McSally didn't specifically mention President Trump's taxes during this line of questioning.
IMMIGRATION AND BUILDING A BORDER WALL
McSally represents about 80 miles of the border. Being a border community comes with challenges and opportunities, McSally said. She says cartel activity is very real along the border.
Our legal immigration system is old, archaic and cumbersome, McSally said, and the system is broken. McSally referenced "illegals," and the crowd yelled "undocumented immigrants" implying she should use that term instead.
McSally does not support mass deportations or a continuous border wall as has been proposed by President Trump. Barriers have a role where appropriate, McSally said, and she does believe there are areas where we need additional barriers. McSally says she is having conversations with the administration about border security.
After the town hall KGUN9 spoke to McSally who said at times it got a little rowdy, but she appreciated those who kept it civil.
"People are engaged and I think that's a good thing," McSally said. "People want to have their voice heard, they want their representative to know what's on their mind and have their concerns heard."
As a woman who was in the Military, McSally says she's dealt with a lot of difficult things. Meeting with her constituents was not in the top 100 of those difficult things, she said.
McSally believes having conversations with constituents is important as everyone has different opinions.
"In many different settings we hear a variety of different views," McSally said. "The frustration and the angst that you heard out of a lot of people today, about half of my district was feeling that way for the last eight years with a different president."
"...this is just the diversity of the community that I represent and we need to hear from all views and move forward in my role as a legislator to do the things that I can do to actually help Southern Arizona," McSally said.
McSally has been accused of trying to dodge public events. The group "McSally Take a Stand" sent out a press release saying it felt snubbed that McSally scheduled a town hall without them. The group says they were told McSally could not come to the meeting it had set up.
The group said in a release it felt like it was left out of the process, and still planned to hold a town hall style event Thursday night without McSally.
A spokesperson for McSally, Patrick Ptak, said Thursday afternoon that she had gone out of her way to talk to this group and others. Ptak said that often people will find something to protest no matter what they do.
McSally's town hall adds to the list of town halls across the country where frustrated constituents voice concerns to Republican lawmakers.
President Donald Trump Tweeted this on Tuesday:
The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!
When asked if McSally would hold another similar town hall she said of course.
There are not any immediate plans for one open to the public in the near future, however McSally will hold a town hall with a business on Friday in Tucson.