Hultgren draws jeers, cheers -- and comment board lights up
On a night where a decidedly liberal audience was primed more for a pro wrestling match than a constituent forum, Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren still won a smattering of applause.
Democrats in conservative congressional districts across the country have attempted to force confrontational town hall meetings with lawmakers in hopes of pinning them down on where they align with controversial positions taken by President Donald Trump. Hultgren's 14th District -- which includes parts of Kane, DuPage, McHenry, Lake, DeKalb, Kendall and Will counties -- has been no exception. His district offices have been the site of repeated picketing and him the subject of exhaustive telephone campaigns for about three months. The focus of many of those protests has been the call for a town-hall meeting with Hultgren. After working with multiple League of Women Voters chapters on the logistics, Hultgren, of Plano, provided that town hall at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
A crowd in excess of 700 people came brandishing a set of red and green cards. The idea was to hold up a green card whenever Hultgren said something they agreed with. The red card would signify disagreement. The visuals were not needed.
The crowd rained down boos and shouted out, "Sellout" and "You're a crook" throughout the night. League of Women Voter officials threatened to cancel the remainder of the forum several times if the audience didn't settle down. When they did, Hultgren provided answers to a few dozen questions during a session that lasted about 90 minutes.
Positions eliciting the most boos included:
• Hultgren's support for funding abstinence programs along with comprehensive sex education. Audience members shouted out, "Be realistic." Hultgren responded: "I want our kids to be healthy and safe. I don't assume my kids are going to make bad decisions. There is room for both (abstinence programs and sex education)."
• Hultgren's support for increased border protections, including at least some version of Trump's wall along portions of the southern border. "There are people coming in here to do harm to our nation," Hultgren said. "It's a very small minority, but we ought to know who they are."
• Hultgren's support for Trump's recent targeted bombing in Syria. "I support what the president did, having a very targeted approach. And I can't imagine any of you'd support what Syria did to their own children.
• Hultgren's stance on global climate change. "The climate is changing, and we do have an impact? More than 51 percent? I have a hard time believing that. I think there's a lot of factors. The right thing to do is finding safe, clean energy that can take us into the future."
• Hultgren's wait-and-see approach to the costs of Trump's weekend trips to his own resorts. "I'm very concerned about it. I'm going to make sure that your money isn't wasted. I'm not opposed to presidents traveling. And I think there have to have security with them. For me, it's way too early to say that this is unacceptable.
Positions earning Hultgren applause included:
• Hultgren's opposition to funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the national parks system, NASA, libraries and museums, and PBS. He supports keeping their finding the same as it has been.
• Hultgren's support for creating a law that would mandate the disclosure of tax returns for presidential candidates. However, he does not support retroactively applying that law to Trump.
• Hultgren's being open to appointing a special prosecutor to look into evidence of ties between Russia and Trump before the election. However, he said he thought such an appointment would set the current work being done on that front back at least six months. He said Republican Rep. Devin Nunes did the right thing in stepping down from the House Intelligence Committee's investigation.
• Hultgren's opposition to a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. He believes any such military action should go through Congress.
• Hultgren's opinion that White House visitor logs should be public. "I think it's a mistake (to hide them)," Hultgren said. "I'm for transparency. The White House is our house."
In response to a question about how he responds to constituents, Hultgren closed the night, and received applause for his description of how he approaches his more liberal constituents.
"We disagree on a lot of things," Hultgren said. "They've changed my way of thinking on some things. Democracy is messy. It's give and take. We're not going to agree on 100 percent of things. But if we're willing to listen and learn, good things are going to happen."