SAHUARITA – More than 250 people gathered at a town hall on Thursday to pepper U.S. Rep. Martha McSally with questions about immigration, health care and President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Like many of her colleagues across the nation, McSally faced a tense crowd as congressional members return to their districts during a recess. The event, which ran about 90 minutes, was held at the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, south of Tucson.
Hundreds of people couldn’t get into the event, including protesters who pressed up against the church’s glass doors and shouted, “We’re still here” and “Do your job!”
Those who did get into the building expressed their agitation on a variety of subjects. Residents submitted more than 700 questions online prior the town hall, but audience members had priority.
When asked about the Trump administration’s performance thus far, she called it a “bumpy rollout.”
“Many things technically could have run better,” she said.
McSally, a Republican, also stood by efforts for a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
When asked whether she agreed with Trump’s recent Tweet describing the news media as “the enemy of the American people,” she replied: “I do not, absolutely not.” Although she added that she does feel there is media bias.
McSally also answered questions about Planned Parenthood, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and transgender rights, all of which drew heated reaction from the crowd.
When asked about potential defunding of Planned Parenthood, she said community health centers and other services could provide the same care as the organization.
She also called prior rulings demanding equal access to school facilities for transgender students an “overreach” of the federal government, and she said these decisions should be left up to the states.
The crowd responded with boos.
“It needed to be done,” McSally said, referring to the Trump administration’s recent decision to withdraw protections for students.
McSally also made statements that made the audience cheer.
She said she believes the climate is changing and human activity is a part of it. She also said some members of her own party believe those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DREAMers – “should all be rounded up.” She called that thinking “ridiculous.”
“Those that have been here that have, other than come here illegally, done nothing wrong, they are working and paying taxes,” McSally said. “We need a bipartisan solution to address those issues.”
Josephine Wilson, 39, said she attended the event to express concerns over climate change, the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency and Trump’s treatment of the press. Although not all of her concerns were addressed, Wilson said after the meeting that she was encouraged by the conversation and hoped McSally would hold another public town hall.
The crowd leaned heavily Democrat, but she had supporters in the crowd.
Fran King, a Trump supporter and member of the Green Valley Council, praised McSally for being “in tune” with attitudes of voters in the Southwest.
“I’m just here to show my support,” King said, adding that she believes everyone has a right to ask questions.
“We are all Americans, and we need to unite and support our president,” she said. “I mean Obama was not my president, but we all supported him and behaved in a civilized manner. And I hope everybody does that throughout the United States because this is everybody’s country, it’s not just one person’s country.”
Cronkite News reporters Natalie Tarangioli and Kendra Penningroth contributed to this article.