Sen. Jerry Moran hosted a town hall meeting in Palco yesterday. The town of about 280 people played host to a town hall with about 150 in attendance.
Media noted that many were from out of town, including members of the media themselves. Reporters from the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal visited Palco, located about 40 miles northwest of Hays. Their coverage suggests Moran faced difficult questions from people who live deep in the heart of Trump country. President Trump received more than 80 percent of the vote in the Big First, but many of the town hall attendees arrived from parts east, where Trump received a much smaller percentage of votes. In Douglas County, Trump received less than 30 percent of votes. In Johnson County, Trump received about 46 percent of the votes.
Here’s how the Associated Press described the event: “Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran faced tough questions Thursday at a town hall meeting in his home county packed with critics of Republican efforts to overhaul health care, showing that even a tiny town deep in Trump territory in a Republican state isn’t isolated from the political discontent in Washington.”
Planned Parenthood Great Plains, centered in Overland Park, bussed in about 15 people
from Johnson and Douglas counties, far fewer than the group’s Facebook page said they intended to bring. Meanwhile, local businesses and many local cars boasted “Choose Life” signs and bumper stickers, a fact missing from many mainstream media stories.
The nearest local daily paper covered the story from a local perspective. “Area residents were bewildered and some rankled at the numbers of people and media who came from outside the area for Sen. Jerry Moran’s town hall meeting Thursday morning,” the Hays Daily News story begins.
Most media reports primarily focus on Moran’s stance on a stalled Senate healthcare bill, but many in the audience appeared ready to rumble over abortion. The Senate bill, which Moran announced last week he couldn’t support as it stands, would defund Planned Parenthood.
When Lucas Roths, a Fort Hays State University student, asked Moran if he believed it was ethical to use taxpayer money to fund organizations that profit from abortion, the crowd shouted him down. David Norlin, of Salina, responded.
“That question should not be asked. It has no relevance to what (Moran) does,” Norlin said. Norlin is a well-known Democratic activist in Salina, once alleged to have removed Republican Rep. JR Claeys’ campaign material from door knobs during the 2014 legislative campaign.
Moran responded as well, telling the crowd anyone was welcome to ask any questions they want.
A similar question from Planned Parenthood lobbyists Elise Higgins, asking that abortions continue to be covered by Medicaid, received applause from many in the audience. Moran said he didn’t have an answer she would like.
While Moran hosted his town hall in Palco, Congressman Roger Marshall hosted a town hall meeting in Meade. Only a handful of people attended.