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Gazette Premium Content Hecklers in force at Lamborn town hall meeting

DEAN TODA Updated: October 16, 2009 at 12:00 am

Civility took a beating Monday when Rep. Doug Lamborn held another town hall meeting on the nation’s hottest political topic: health care.

A vocal minority, less than 10 percent of the estimated 600 people who filled Stargazers Theatre off East Pikes Peak Avenue, heckled the Colorado Republican throughout his opening remarks detailing his opposition to health care measures being considered by Congress.

He argued that the various versions of legislation would be a financial burden to American families, strain the health care system and increase the federal deficit.

“It costs too much, controls too much and covers too few,” he said.

Lamborn had to deliver much of his message over a cascade of shouts of “you lie,” borrowed from a Republican congressman’s heckling of President Barack Obama.

In turn, many in the audience urged the hecklers to shut up or used saltier language.

At several points, the shouting got so intense that Lamborn could not be heard, even with the advantage of a microphone and loudspeakers. He kept his composure but interrupted his presentation occasionally to ask for courtesy.

Nearly every time Lamborn offered a statistic or cited a report, the hecklers challenged it as false or misleading.

For example, a chart Lamborn circulated Monday and at previous town hall events, backed his assertion that the U.S. system is superior by showing that Americans have higher survival rates for prostate and breast cancer.

As the critics pointed out, he did not mention that broader public health surveys place the U.S. in the middle of the pack among developed nations. It leads in only two major categories, neither of them good — the rate of obesity and the cost of health care.

The heckling abated somewhat during questions from the audience, which took up more than half of the hourlong meeting.

“It was a great opportunity to hear from my constituents and to present what’s happening in Congress,” a cheerful Lamborn said afterward. But he said he was “disappointed” with some in the audience for “not having the civility to allow other people to be heard.”

“They did not do their cause any good,” he said.

Tony Wolusky, a supporter of health care reform, said he shouted at Lamborn only once. Because the audience seemed “disproportionately representative of people who liked the Lamborn nonreform position,” he said, those who disagreed “needed to make themselves heard in the old traditional way, so I had no problem with that.”

Almost every seat was filled, and dozens stood in the aisles, but there was none of the crowding that marred Lamborn’s last Colorado Springs town hall meeting at the end of August.

Lamborn said he would “keep open to the possibility” of more town hall meetings as warranted by developments on health care and other items on the congressional agenda.

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