Few fireworks at town hall meeting

EAST MANATEE – For those who showed up for fireworks at Rep. Vern Buchanan’s health care town hall meeting on today, they were most likely disappointed.

The passionate, conservative-leaning crowd had its share of boos, and a few liberal speakers were interrupted. But the hour-long meeting with roughly 1,400 participants at Braden River High School was free of any violence or shouting matches.

“It wasn’t disruptive at all,” said Rosemarie Eakin of Sarasota. “Obviously it was a Republican crowd, but there were some Democrats, too. I think people gave them enough time to talk.”

Perhaps the most tense moment came near the beginning when a man spoke up in favor of the plan supported by President Barack Obama. He first asked the audience to listen politely and then said many British and Canadian residents are happy with their health care system.

The man was shouted down with boos, whistles and calls to “Move to Canada!”

He responded to one heckler with: “You must be pretty stupid to behave like that.”

Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and subsequent speakers asked other attendees to not interrupt questioners, and some would-be hecklers were even quieted by the crowd.

Dennis Boege, of Lakewood Ranch, watched from the cafeteria. He said more people should have asked specific questions about the health care bill rather than simply stating their position.

He wanted to ask Buchanan about his stance on the government negotiating for lower drug prices. He said if that were included in a health care reform bill, it could save billions in health care costs.

Even so, Boege was impressed with the event’s turnout. Buchanan has had eight town hall meetings this year, and most attracted a couple hundred people.

“I’ve been to most of his town halls, and they were nothing like this,” said Boege, 61. “You’re dealing with a lot of senior citizens, like myself, who are concerned about health care.”

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