VISTA — Nearly 1,500 people swarmed a town hall meeting in Vista last night, hoping to express their concerns over health care with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
But Issa was a no-show, after weeks of protests outside his office calling on the Congressman to hold face-to-face meetings with his constituents. Nevertheless, dozens of residents delivered testimonials on how the Affordable Care Act helped them and their families.
One woman said that her family experienced back-to-back fatal car crashes leaving them with expensive bills that would put a financial burden on anybody.
“I’ve been in the hospital wondering how this is all going to be paid for,” she said.
Irma Salinas is a mother who said she had to purchase two insurance plans to get treatment for her daughter, who was born with disabilities. She was upset Issa declined to attend, and had hoped to ask him about people like her daughter.
“First of all: Where are you?” Salinas said. “And what’s going to happen to people right now with pre-existing conditions?”
The event sprang from a network of constituents and the various “Indivisible” groups around North County, but it was part of the #Fight4OurHealth campaign, backed by labor and health care advocacy groups. The use of the Jim Porter Recreational Center for Tuesday’s town hall was paid for by the Service Employees International Union.
A few people who said they were Republicans also spoke at the town hall, and were concerned that changes to the ACA would cause more people to use the emergency room for help.
David Ford, of Oceanside, said he was a disengaged Republican before this election, but he opposes President (Donald) Trump’s policies on immigration, health care, the use of executive orders, and the rise of “fake news.”
“Darrell Issa is in bed with Donald Trump,” Ford said.
In recent weeks, calls have been growing for Issa to hold in-person town halls.
Protesters have gathered outside his office in Vista, and been vocal about Issa’s use of telephone town halls. They say he uses the calls as a way to control the audience and questions that he answers.
Earlier on Tuesday, Issa spoke for 90 minutes to the demonstrators and a group of supporters who gathered outside his office for an impromptu town hall, and answered their questions about healthcare, Planned Parenthood and the President’s conflicts of interest.
Issa declined to attend the town hall at night, saying he had a previous engagement, and on Tuesday night he met with residents from Solutions for Change, a nonprofit group that provides jobs and housing to homeless families.
Issa’s Democratic opponent, Doug Applegate attended the town hall, however, and greeted voters outside the venue.
“I came without any agenda,” Applegate said. “I thought, ‘I’m happy that I’m here – why don’t I stay outside talking to people.’”
In the November election, Applegate led Issa in the San Diego County portion of the district, but in southern Orange County, the part of the 49th District that more heavily favored Issa, ultimately gave him the victory.
Applegate has already promised to run again in 2018, however, and compared the energized voters at the town hall with his campaign last fall.
“There’s lots of energy — it feels like October,” he said.