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Lungren Faces Hecklers at Town Hall

About 150 people, from liberals to Tea Partiers, turned out to grill the Congressman.

It's not the easiest time to be a California Republican in Congress—you've got a controversial deficit deal that some in your party think didn't go far enough, that will likely favor Democrats, and, if you're U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, a looking to smack you down in 2012.

Those pressures were on display Thursday evening at a town hall meeting at the , where about 150 constituents turned out to grill the Congressman on everything from the debt ceiling to oil company subsidies.

One young woman was ejected from the hall early in the meeting after she stood up to scold Lungren on spending cuts she said were compromising her generation's future. (See attached video.)

"People have master's degrees and they're working at Starbucks," she said. "You should go to jail along with Obama."

Lungren then spent time defending the compromise Congress recently reached on reducing the national deficit, seeming to aim his remarks at conservatives in the audience. The deal put the issue of debt on the national agenda, he said, though it didn't include a Constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget, a goal cherished by Tea Party activists.

"Is it everything we wanted? Not in a long shot," he said. "It's like a 12-round heavyweight championship fight."

During the question and answer session, the polarized crowd, which included sizeable sections of liberal MoveOn.org activists and red-shirted , often interrupted to clap, laugh, or heckle Lungren and each other.

At one point, an audience member asked a question about highly profitable oil companies receiving government subsidies. "As far as I know, oil companies and other corporations are paying their taxes," Lungren began, but was quickly interrupted by shouts of "What planet are you on?" and "No billionaire left behind!"

As in many political discussions in the United States these days, audience members' critiques fell into two main buckets: The federal government was spending too much, or it wasn't spending enough.

One man brought up unemployment and wanted to know when the federal government was going to lay off more workers.

"I see thousands of TSA employees just standing around [at the airport]," he said.

"We are reviewing every contract that the House of Representatives has," Lungren responded. "I think you're going to see some very serious reductions in different federal agencies and departments."

Two comments did draw broad applause from the crowd: Lungren's mention that he wanted to get rid of corn ethanol subsidies, and a proposal from an audience member to increase income taxes on millionaires.

"I don't think it solves the problem," Lungren said of taxing the rich. If he could personally revamp the tax system, he said, he'd impose a flat tax rate on everyone or get rid of income tax altogether.

The Congressman appeared relaxed during the questioning, though he did pause to chastise the audience for their rowdiness.

"I was told by my parents to be respectful of others," he said.

Still, Lungren was short on answers for audience members who asked about specific local problems, including a teacher who wanted help refinancing her upside-down mortgage and a sheet metal worker who complained about international trade agreements pushing area jobs overseas.

"I don't see a program that would be able to answer your question without jeopardizing the ultimate recovery of the market," he told the teacher.

On trade, he said, "Trade agreements give us an opportunity to be able to to create and take advantage of markets overseas," before mentioning support for a U.S.-Colombia trade agreement under consideration in Congress. The pact faces criticism from human rights activists because of attacks on union leaders in Colombia.

Afterwards, the sheet metal worker, 47-year-old Sal Rotolo of Elk Grove, said he was "very disappointed" with Lungren's response.

"He talked about opening up markets as if it was markets for trade when they are obviously markets for cheap labor," he said.

Kim Matranga, a 59-year-old water aerobics instructor attending her first town hall meeting, said she found Lungren well-spoken and sympathetic in response to some tough questions.

"There are a lot of angry people out there, and understandably so, but it's our economy and the mess we're in," she said.

Lungren faces a from Elk Grove Democrat Dr. Ami Bera, who lost to him in the last election but has in campaign funds in the first six months of this year. On Thursday, he brushed off questions about that race.

"I'm eight months into this two-year term and I've been concentrating on doing this job," he said.

Jack Covert August 19, 2011 at 03:55 PM
LOL, no billionaire left behind. I'm glad I didn't attend, partisan politics drive me crazy. I've been asking Lungren for years to move to the center, reduce the rhetoric and stop being concerned with keeping his job and start being concerned with doing what's needed. Every month I get an email from him with more of the same. Go Ami!
M.Legison August 19, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Any update on Ami Bera's slumlording business, or is he completely out of it now?
Mark Paxson August 20, 2011 at 04:14 AM
Fascinating ... after scouring the internet and also my fuzzy memory I can find no reference anywhere to Ami Bera as a slumlord. I'm sure it's all just part of the liberal media conspiracy. Well done, M. Legison ... random, unsubstantiated slur thrown. Let's not forget to throw the kitchen sink to see if that sticks as well.
M.Legison August 20, 2011 at 06:26 AM
You disappoint me Mr. Paxon. Here's not only the article with both fact and speculation, but a copy of the business registration of his taudry motel. http://www.redstate.com/moe_lane/2010/10/04/ami-bera-d-cand-ca-03-covering-up-sex-offender-tenants/
Mark Paxson August 20, 2011 at 02:08 PM
As do you. M. Legison. I found that article during my search and there are so many things factually suspect about the article, it's clearly a piece of propaganda. First, owning a transient hotel doesn't make somebody a slumlord. It makes them a business person. Seems to me you, with your jobs first attitude, should appreciate somebody who owned a business and provided jobs to the people who worked there. Wasn't it another conservative on here who stated liberals don't own businesses? Owning a transient hotel, not taking care of it, and taking advantage of your tenants might make you a slumlord. But there are none of those allegations. So, sorry for you, there still isn't any hint out there of Mr. Bera being a slumlord. What's even more troubling about the article are the rest of the spurious allegations. Let's see, Red State acknowledges that the property was sold in 2009, but nowhere indicates when the RSO lived there -- so, no facts tie Mr. Bera's ownership to the period when the RSO lived there. Furthermore, nowhere does Red State state where there's a requirement that a landlord has any legal obligation with respect to Jessica's law. And, finally, Red State? Really? To an article that ends with a link to Lungren's website? You couldn't do any better than that?
Sarah Johnson August 20, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Way to keep him honest, Mr.Paxson! Thanks for the rational thinking in this era of hysteria and hyperbole.
M.Legison August 20, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Love the hypocrisy. You're OK with a Congressional candidate involved in a transient hotel with allegations about harboring a RSO and dismissive of the act, but you have no problem quoting "facts" that suit you about a Republican candidate like, say, Gov. Perry who "depended on government jobs" for his numbers (wrong, according to the BLS) from a questionable secondary source. It's OK--that's what liberals do. You probably don't like uppity Republican women much either.
IdiotWhisperer August 20, 2011 at 05:54 PM
The Idiot Whisperer is here to communicate with you because I understand your inner most thoughts;-) I was at the meeting and had I had the mic. I would have spoken the truth in a way that you could understand: Whiskey – Tango Foxtrot – Congressman I have entered this Heart of Darkness meeting tonight, to tell you that GOP stands for GREED, OBSTRUCTION And PLUTOCRACY. I have come here to tell you that you are done robbing the American people to line the pockets of the 400 richest people. Sir, your Greed, lying and sedition are SHAMEFUL. I am here to tell you that your dark reign of Greed, Obstruction and Plutocracy are done! Stick a fork in the GOP – It is done in America.
Mark Paxson August 20, 2011 at 09:57 PM
M. Legison ... tell you what, when you can show me the FACTS that show he owned SO housing while an RSO was living there and where, as an owner, he had a legal obligation to do something about it, then you might be able to call me a hypocrite. Might. But, I'd suggest there's a glass house and a thrown rock problem you'd have with call me that.
Mark Paxson August 20, 2011 at 10:01 PM
As for the Gov. Perry claim, when you can show me the BLS statistics that refutes this paragraph, let me know ... "Between December 2007 and last June, private-sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6 percent, while public-sector jobs increased by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics." And, finally, the comment about uppity Republican women ... I don't even know how to respond to that, other than to think you really are pulling out the kitchen sink and throwing it at me. Just so utterly ridiculous. Which uppity Republican women do I object to?
IdiotWhisperer August 20, 2011 at 11:18 PM
Where did you pull this nonsense out from? The same place of the previous place?
IdiotWhisperer August 20, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Mark: I certainly appreciate your lucid and objective comments and rebuttals to these folks. It is clear you are smart and objective. But those are things these folks do not appreciate and they really can not get their heads around a fact nor do they care for the truth. So you will not succeed in changing their minds. They are just the played pawns of FOX. And it is fun to play with them;-)
Mark Paxson August 20, 2011 at 11:29 PM
Here are a few more facts for you to chew on regarding the Texas "miracle" ... The Perry era has meant a jump in working poor. Almost 10 percent of the employed make the minimum wage, compared with 6 percent nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a poverty rate of 17 percent, Texas is among the 10 poorest states in the United States, according to 2010 Census data. Although the $4 billion in spending cuts in education helped balance the budget, the state already leads America in dropouts. And the divide between the rich and poor is the fourth widest in the country.
M.Legison August 21, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Try the primary data for verification, Mark. Your Democratic blogs are twisting figures. I'm amazed how many people are taking those as facts. Quantify "the divide between the rich and poor." You can't. Texas does not have the highest dropout rate, Mark, but it does have the most dropouts. Size matters. If you're going to make an assertion and you don't want to go to the source, at least consider a CYA by using an "according to" preface. Your fans here, most who I suspect are not quite of voting age yet, may be impressed but I could drive my H2 through even more of your faux facts if I had enough interest.
Mark Paxson August 21, 2011 at 12:06 AM
It really is stunning how in capable you are of actually having a factual discussion. You post unsubstantiated info on here all the time and refuse to provide your sources, change the subject when challenged, and ultimately just resort to throwing rocks when nothing else works. Unfortunately, it's all been a diversion from what the original point was ... your unsubstantiated slur about Bera that still remains unsubstantiated. So, throw rocks, change the subject, and refuse to back up your allegations with anything meaningful. It aint working for you.
M.Legison August 21, 2011 at 02:31 AM
Sorry, but my post about Bera was 100% factual to the extent I represented it to be so. The link to ownership of a transient motel was there. You, on the other hand assumed you were looking at facts, but you were mistaken again. My question was simply if he's still in the slumlord business. I'm smart enough not to post anything not substantiated without including a caveat or referencing a caveat that part is reported but not verified. That's exactly what I did, Mr. Paxson, and that's exactly what the article said as well. As the old saying goes, you have the right to your opinion, but not your own facts.
Mark Paxson August 21, 2011 at 02:55 AM
No. There was nothing about what you posted that factually backed up your claim. You made an allegation that Bera was a slumlord and cited to a conservative blog that clearly has an agenda (i.e., a link to Lungren's website at the bottom of the post) that showed nothing other than that Bera owns a transient hotel. Again, nothing factual to show that he is a slumlord, which is a pejorative term that requires far more than just owning SO housing. Unfortunately, you seem to be confusing your allegations of me with yourself. You want to put out there your opinion that Bera may have once been a slumlord, but you are incapable of providing the facts that back it up. Hate to tell you this, but there's nothing in the article that says Bera is a slumlord. You knew exactly what you were doing ... by posing the question the way you did, it infers something that isn't actually there. In other words, it's an unsubstantiated allegation that you threw out in the wilderness. Let's see if it sticks -- it's a tactic that the right-wing has mastered over the past few decades. And, when challenged on the facts of it, you changed the subject. Sorry, M. Legison, try to re-cast it however you want, but after the past few weeks of watching you, your pattern is all too familiar.
IdiotWhisperer August 21, 2011 at 04:28 AM
Who cares if Bera is in the Slum Lord Busines. You and the GOP are in the FOX Anticrhist Chruch Business!
M.Legison August 21, 2011 at 07:16 AM
LOL Mark. I will give you this much, you're as predictable as they come with your histrionics. I'm sure he was a fine innkeeper, and the Colonial Hotel is a fine establishment and probably caters to fine, upstanding folks. Selling it before he lost the first time was probably just an astute business decision. I'm equally sure that if it was a Republican owner, you'd have the same overly-defensive position.
Mark Paxson August 21, 2011 at 02:06 PM
M. Legison ... guess what? There's actually a need for SO housing. Would you rather they were living on the street? I don't care who the owners are. Maybe you should look up the definition of slumlord and let me know how there mere fact of owning SO housing makes one a slumlord. And, you are all too predictable as well. Instead of dealing with facts, you just keep throwing rocks. Well done.

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