(Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)
BLACKSTONE, Va. — Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who drew national notice after complaining that women were “in my grill” because he was reluctant to hold a town hall meeting, finally relented and came face to face with those women — and plenty others — at a raucous public event Tuesday night.
Brat held the meeting in a tiny town in Nottoway County, a rural community carried by Trump in November. It’s about an hour south of where most in Brat’s district live, but that didn’t stop a stream of people from driving into town and filling up the town hall, with hundreds shut out on the sidewalk.
For a little more than an hour, Brat was heckled nonstop as he fielded questions on health care, President Trump’s policies and the border wall.
His answers seemed to antagonize most in the crowd of 150, who yelled back at him, at points drowning him out and prompting a few of his supporters to leave early in disgust.People attending the town hall meeting with Rep. Dave Brat hold up pieces of paper in an effort to express their views. (Timothy C. Wright/For the Washington Post)
Some of the loudest jeers came over Republicans’ promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as people held up red cards signaling their discontent.
“The problem is Obamacare has just collapsed, ” said Brat, who stood at a podium in the Blackstone Herb Cottage, a restaurant and event space. The crowd shouted in response, “No, it has not!”
The town hall came after constituents, many of them organizing online, made daily calls and sent repeated emails to Brat’s office to demand a public meeting.
Participants began to line up along Main Street hours before the doors opened at 6:30 p.m. Many held signs referring to Brat’s recent gaffe, including one that read “VA 7th district, it’s grilling time!”
Another sign said, “This grandmother drove 165 miles to be in your grill, Mr. Brat and no one paid me to be here!” — a nod to a comment Brat made to a Richmond paper in which he dismissed protesters as “paid activists.”
Several people sported stickers on their clothes bearing their zip codes, to demonstrate they lived in Brat’s congressional district.Brat speaks answers a question during the town hall meeting. (Timothy C. Wright/For the Washington Post)
As he ticked off the names of the counties he has visited in the district, a few in the crowd yelled “Arizona, ” a jab at his plans to attend a town hall meeting with Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) in Gold Canyon, Ariz., on Thursday. Brat had accepted that invitation before agreeing to hold a town hall in Virginia, a move that enraged some of his critics.
Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn acted as an emcee, reading written questions collected from the crowd. Asked “Do you deny climate change?” Brat said “No, the climate changes all the time.” His apparent attempt at levity angered the crowd, prompting some to yell “Answer the question!”