by John English

Jason Chaffetz held a town hall in Salt Lake County, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the results meant he never does so again. Democratic organizers did a better job of getting their people out than Chaffetz did. (If he’s still a Congressman in 2020, this might inspire him to try to gerrymander more of SLC out of his district.)

I arrived around 5:50 for the planned 7:00 event. Several hundred people were already there at Brighton High School. The auditorium had a capacity between 1000-1100, which meant that people who arrived after 6:15-ish wound up not getting in. I asked afterwards how many people were turned away and the estimate was 1000 (the SLTrib reports up to 1500). Most of those people stayed outside and held a rally/protest.

While in line I was handed a lot of material. It felt just like going to a convention.

My guess was 75% of the attendees were against Chaffetz, but by the end I’d put the answer closer to 90%, and I guarantee at least a third were not constituents. One of the questioners addressed him as “Shavetz” and another kept calling him “Senator.”

The rage in the room felt equal to what we saw with the Tea Party in 2009. Rep. Jason Chaffetz was booed lustily as soon as he came out. He tried to set the mood by starting with the Pledge of Allegiance, but once that was over (with the crowd yelling “with liberty and justice for ALL!“), it was time for questions. There were no microphones provided for questioners, which may have been fine. There would have been 100 people in line for one had they been there. Instead he called on people with hands raised.

Words and phrases were instantly booed or cheered. “President Trump-” BOOO! “Mike Pence-” BOOO! “Planned Parenthood-” YAAAY! “Betsy DeVos-” BOOO! This Chaffetz Town Hall was lively.

The phrase Chaffetz had to use most often was “Hold on, hold on!” Any answer he gave that was longer than a few seconds got booed, sometimes interupted with “Answer the question!” When one woman brought up cancer in her question about Planned Parenthood, Chaffetz tried to relate with his own experiences where his mother and his father died of cancer, and then he started talking about his wife’s battle when he started getting heckled and hissed. “So little decency here,” he noted.

Chaffetz finally left 40 minutes before the event was scheduled to end, and I don’t blame him. Chaffetz is in a heavily Republican district. He won around 75% of the vote just four months ago (where Trump only won 45.5% in Utah). There are plenty of people within his district, who voted for him and who didn’t, who have problems with him, but I don’t see how this would have persuaded him or changed his mind on anything. I see it more as a galvanizing point for “The Resistance.” It feels better to yell at someone in person rather than online. (UPDATE: There was an invite from Our Utah that said it went from 7:00-9:00 but the Chaffetz campaign never gave an end time.)

If you want to watch the Chaffetz Town Hall in its entirety, click here.

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