SNOHOMISH — U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene fielded questions about health care, investigations of President Donald Trump’s ties to the Russian government and the prospect of nuclear war during a town hall meeting Tuesday.
A couple of hundred people packed the bleachers at the Glacier Peak High School gym to ask questions of DelBene, a Democrat who represents Washington’s 1st Congressional District. The tone was mostly cordial and the questions often fell in line with DelBene’s politics, though the crowd included Republicans from her district.
“This is a very divisive time in our country,” she said during her introduction. “I don’t have to tell you that.”
The meeting was one of five DelBene has scheduled in her district this spring. It comes at a time when her staff said they have received an unprecedented number of calls, emails and letters from her constituents, many expressing concern about Trump and his policies.
Leeza Broome, of Lake Stevens, asked for more Department of Defense funding to research conditions such as arthritis, which afflicts her 9-year-old daughter, Kaylee, as well as a disproportionate number of military veterans. Broome appreciated the support from DelBene, who also has met with her daughter.
“She’s been really great,” she said.
Bruce Morton, 49, of Lake Stevens, asked DelBene to work toward making the president get congressional authorization to wage war, including actions such as the recent missile attack on a Syrian airfield suspected of being used in chemical weapons attacks. He also asked her to support a House bill that would take the nuclear codes away from the president, and give them to Congress instead. The crowd clapped loudly.
“We have a single man who has the authority to end all civilization and that’s not how the system should work,” Morton said. “Especially for somebody who’s so erratic.”
Mark Ainsworth, 62, who lives just outside Monroe city limits, asked DelBene if she would support steps to move the country toward a health care system that, over time, would come to cover all Americans. Ainsworth said he was glad she thanked him for the suggestion.
“I think single-payer is still hard for a lot of us to swallow as Americans,” he said. “That’s why I’m suggesting a more gradual approach.”
The meeting comes during one of the most politically charged times in the country since the Vietnam War era. Trump won the Nov. 8 election with a comfortable margin in the electoral college, but lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, federal elections officials reported. He garnered just 36.3 percent of ballots cast in Snohomish County.
Recent moves by the Trump administration have been unpopular in Western Washington. They include pushing to cut off billions of dollars in mass transit grants, sending mixed messages about cracking down on the legal pot industry, and trying to publicly shame top law enforcement officials for declining to detain immigrants without court orders.
DelBene has represented the 1st Congressional District since late 2012, after a successful career as a tech executive and a stint heading the state Department of Revenue. The district stretches from King County to the Canadian border. It takes in most of east Snohomish County, including Bothell, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Maltby and Snohomish.
The congressional representative has noticed an increase in political engagement. Since the election, her office is on pace to double the 130,000 constituent calls, emails and letters received last year.
“I’m hearing a lot of concern and fear from constituents about some of the president’s recent actions,” DelBene said. “I share many of their concerns and want people to know I will continue to defend all Americans’ civil liberties and fight to uphold constitutional protections.”
State GOP Chairwoman Susan Hutchison sent out a press release last week blasting some media outlets for painting Republicans such as U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in a negative light for declining to meet with constituents for town hall-style meetings. Hutchison said the news reports haven’t applied the same scrutiny to Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Washington’s U.S. senators.
“What are Murray and Cantwell afraid of?” Hutchison demanded. “What are they hiding? When was the last time they took questions at an open town hall meeting?”
Murray’s staff said that’s not accurate. While the senator might not be out at town hall-style meetings, they said, she has kept an active schedule traveling throughout Washington to meet with people and answer questions.
Cantwell has no town hall meetings on her schedule.
The House members who represent parts of Snohomish County, who all are Democrats, have been making themselves available of late.
Rep. Rick Larsen, whose 2nd Congressional District covers most of western Snohomish County, hosted eight town hall meetings earlier this year, including ones in Marysville, Mountlake Terrace and Langley.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, whose 7th Congressional District extends into southwest Snohomish County, had four town hall meetings on her April calendar. All were in King County.
DelBene’s meeting at Glacier Peak was one of five on her schedule this month. She has upcoming meetings scheduled in Kirkland and Mount Vernon.