Oregon’s sole Republican congressman, Greg Walden, ran into an anti-Donald Trump buzzsaw as he came back to his district Wednesday.
Hundreds of constituents packed town halls in The Dalles and Hood River, mostly to complain that Walden isn’t doing enough to fight the president on issues ranging from immigration to global warming.
While Trump handily won Walden’s sprawling district, parts of the Gorge lean Democratic. And it was clear Trump critics were more apt to show up to quiz Walden. That's happened around the country as Republican members of Congress have found themselves suddenly besieged at town halls.
One woman at Walden's Hood River Middle School event asked him to stand up to what she said was Trump’s bullying.
“We shouldn’t call our president a pig and he shouldn’t call people by names," Walden told her. "I don’t think it works well for any of us, as Americans or Oregonians. And I have spoken out. But I’ll tell you where I can play a more important role: being in the room.”
That’s a reference to Walden’s clout with Trump and the GOP leadership. In fact, Walden said he had a chance to talk to Trump privately about immigration. He said he told the president that the system needed to be reformed so that many of the undocumented immigrants now in the country can remain.
Walden said he also disagreed with Trump's budget proposals to cut funding for the humanities, the arts and scientific research.
But many attendees said they weren't happy with Walden's drive to replace the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. And they said that Trump's presidency is causing them to re-evaluate Walden. Many in the crowd said they have long known Walden, who grew up in Hood River and still lives there.
Doug Holzman, an airline pilot, said Walden even attended his wedding. But he said he voted against the congressman for the first time last year "because of the way he's toeing the Republican line. There's no thinking outside of the box and on some of the issues that are going on. So we've lost a lot of respect for his political views."
Dale Thompson, a retired clergyman and former mayor of Condon, said Walden has "turned into a Washington, D.C. guy. He's not a local boy anymore."
Thompson agreed it was harder to see Walden in a bipartisan light in the age of Trump.
"It's very hard to overcome the 'R' label behind his name," he said.
Walden acknowledged the depth of feeling at the town halls. But he made a point of telling The Dalles audience that his district is overall quite conservative and that Trump won it by nearly 20 points.