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Never fear, the seats got filled

Don O’Leary, unofficial mayor of Lakewood Ranch, fretted that there might be a poor turnout Saturday morning for the town hall meeting of Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Only a handful of people had taken seats as of 10 a.m.

Maybe there hadn’t been enough publicity, O’Leary said. Maybe those who wrangle people and get them to town hall meetings had fallen down on their herding.

Maybe there was just more entertaining things to do on a sunny Saturday morning, like hitting one of our dazzling beaches. Or could be that folks just like to sleep in on Saturday.

But this worry came a full hour before show time.

By the time Buchanan arrived shortly after 11 a.m., the place was packed with somewhere between 200 and 250 people.

It was Buchanan’s eighth town hall meeting. Just how many more might he have planned?

Buchanan’s stock answer is that he will keep holding the town halls as long as there’s a demand.

“When it gets down to 10 people, I’ll stop,” Buchanan said.

Sally Tibbetts, Buchanan’s spokeswoman, said she doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. Attendance has been fairly uniform, wherever Buchanan has his town halls around the district.

And constituents have a lot on their minds with all calamities which seem to be facing us.

Like they say, these times are as serious as a heart attack. But there were a few lighter moments, too.

Example: Buchanan called on a woman who had the microphone to address her concerns about healthcare.

A gentleman in front of her thought Buchanan was motioning to him to speak. Even without a microphone, his booming voice could be heard loud and clear all over the room.

Buchanan asked him how he was able to project his voice so well.

The man said he calls bingo.

“That’s after the town hall,” Buchanan quipped.

Buchanan also talked about skyrocketing federal spending and his support for a balanced budget amendment.

“For every dollar we’re taking in, we’re spending $1.67,” he said.

Buchanan got another laugh when he paraphrased a widely reported quote from Vice President Joe Biden: We have to continue spending or we are going to go bankrupt.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.