SISTERS, OR -- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) began a three-county sweep through Central Oregon with a town hall meeting in Sisters, Monday evening. It was his first public meeting in the area since the election of President Trump. Wyden's theme throughout the evening was what he called the Oregon Way. "We’re respectful and we’re inclusive; and I’ll tell you, I don’t think Mark Hatfield, a legendary Republican, would have ever accepted a religious test in government and neither will I."
More than 700 people crowded into the Sisters High auditorium. At the start of the meeting, Wyden asked for a show of hands from those who had never attended a town hall with him before; more than half raised their hands, including James Dougherty. He tells KBND News, "We have to continue the momentum that has resulted from the Trump election." His wife Elizabeth says, "I think my greatest fear is that we’ll lose that momentum, so it’s really important to show up and to – sounds kind of cliché – but, to make our voices heard we have to support our two Senators. Our Representative will not meet with us in a town hall, so the pressure’s on for that, as well."
Due to the large crowd, a couple dozen people were forced to sit in an overflow area just outside the auditorium, including Patrick Hartman of Sisters. He brought his wife and their 16-year-old daughter and says, "The issues are becoming magnified and I think it’s important that everybody start getting involved in expressing their interests and their concerns. I’m pleased with his willingness to stand up for issues that I’m concerned about."
Senator Wyden took questions through a lottery-style drawing and mainly focused on familiar topics, including protecting public lands, the future of the Affordable Care Act, the administration’s alleged ties to Russia, and immigration. Amidst the overwhelmingly "friendly" crowd, there were a few Trump supporters in the audience. One was selected to speak and asked, "Do you accept Donald Trump’s results of his Presidency as valid and legal?" Wyden answered, "Yes, I believe he won the election." The man responded, "Fantastic. And then from that, what are you doing to heal and move forward so we can get things done?" Wyden said, "First of all, I want to tell you I very much appreciate you coming and speaking out. Because, it does take courage and guts to be willing to speak out when, obviously, there are others who may not share your view. Frankly, I think being willing to do that is part of what I call the Oregon way." Wyden went on to say that things like the President's travel ban are detracting from policy that he believes could get bipartisan support. "I think it’s particularly unfortunate that going with an idea like this has really diverted attention from
another idea that Democrats and Republicans ought to be working together on, that will leave you and everybody in this room safer and is consistent with protecting liberty; and that is, revising the visa waiver program." He also praised Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham for their willingness to stand up to the President and others in their party.
This was Wyden’s 795th town hall meeting since taking office, and his 22nd in Deschutes County. He will host a Prineville town hall Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., at Crook County High School; and then at the Madras Performing Arts Center at 10 a.m., Wednesday.