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Pearce town hall gets rowdy; Punch thrown at congressman’s energized forum

March 6, 2017 • Local News

RUIDOSO — The first town hall held by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce during the Trump administration got a little heated Saturday, when one man tried to punch another man, although Pearce said the energized convergence of opposing viewpoints was a fruitful endeavor in politically divisive times.
“We had over 300 people at the town hall (Saturday), and the most important takeaway is that we all came together to have a civil discussion and conversation about the health of our communities and the direction of our nation,” Pearce said in a statement. “The entire room was energized, yet individuals on both sides of the political spectrum were able to engage in the important dialogue of the day.”
Between 325 and 350 people turned out for the Saturday morning town hall to speak and hear from the Hobbs Republican, the only Republican in New Mexico’s congressional delegation, held at the Ruidoso Convention Center. The town hall came just hours after President Donald Trump made an explosive accusation on his [auth] Twitter account that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower before November’s election.
The nearly two-hour town hall was rowdy, but nonviolent, outside the single punch thrown by one man for taking photos, said Pearce spokesperson Keeley Christensen. She said the scuffle developed quickly and unexpectedly in a back corner of the convention center.
“It was a little civil dispute that happened near the beginning of our town hall,” Christensen said Monday. “One man was taking photos of another and he wasn’t accepting of that.”
Christensen said she was unsure if the two men involved in the fracas are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
“Politically speaking, I don’t know,” she said. “I know that the civil dispute had nothing to do with the nature of the town hall.”
No one was injured.
“And no police report was filed,” Christensen said. “They both were back at the town hall. They participated the whole time.
“We will be hosting more town halls in the future. Unfortunately, we had a little dispute, but all in all, it was a good event.”
The town hall covered a wide range of topics from tax reform, Medicaid, and Medicare to public lands management, immigration reform, border security and education reform. Discussion topics included Republicans’ plans to repeal the 2010 health care law. Pearce was drowned out by boos when he said the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is collapsing.
Pearce was back in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Christensen said, preparing for the week ahead in the nation’s capital, where Democrats’ claims of Russian election interference and Trump’s counterclaims of being spied upon by his predecessor have dominated headlines and further elevated political tensions.
Pearce said it was important to have a civil discussion and hear varying viewpoints at the town hall. He also said he didn’t mind the rowdiness.
“The success of our nation rests on the will of the people to make their voice and their desires known,” he said in his statement. “During the town hall, I heard from mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, veterans and so many more. It was wonderful to be able to engage with each and discuss what is important to their families and within their communities.
“While the room did not agree on everything, it did agree on a few key facts. We all want a stronger, healthier economy in New Mexico, we all want better opportunities for our children, and we all want our communities to be safe. We, as New Mexicans, are in a unique opportunity to come together to find solutions with the new administration that will achieve our common goals. Neither New Mexico nor the nation have the time or the resources to continue to allow political disdain to rule the conversation — we must work together. I am extremely pleased so many different viewpoints were represented. Our state and nation can accomplish great things when we unite around the desire to improve.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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