U.S. Representative John Faso (R, NY-19) appeared Thursday night in Esopus Town Hall, answering questions for nearly two hours, at a long-awaited community forum meeting.
The first-term Republican congressman, strongly criticized by Democratic opponents since taking office last January, including for not holding public forums, talked about issues including health care, race relations, and national debt.
Faso expressed political differences with President Donald Trump, while also taking moderate stances on topics including immigration and social justice. He stood his hardline ground on health care, tax reform, and campaign donors.
“I’m always amenable to meeting with constituents; I do it all the time,” Faso said after the event. “This was a healthy and productive dialogue, I’m going to be looking forward to doing more of these around the district,”
Responding to occasional heckling and booing, Faso said, “I don’t mind it – it was harmless. The only time I felt a little leery, is when I spilt my water. I understand people aren’t going to agree with me all the time; that is just the nature of the system. If everyone agreed, it would be pretty boring, you wouldn’t even come.”
Sponsored by Move Forward New York, the forum drew 70 advance tickets from each political party, plus another 50 spectators at the door. The crowd was evenly split; however, most questions appeared to come from opposition speakers.
Moderator Dr. Gerald Benjamin noted that he attempted to evenly temper the discussion.
“I think some of the questions that were presumptively hostile or antagonistic, Faso handled in an unexpected way, for example immigration reform,” Benjamin said. “He has a developed point of view, he believes in markets, very Republican, a big supporter of jobs and tax cuts. And he’s not a government intervention guy. That’s what the district elected, they elected a Republican congressman.”
“I do not feel there was any change of opinion on how people feel, nor was that an expected outcome,” said Move Forward organizer Debra Clinton. “We didn’t really expect that there would be a big shift in anybody’s opinion, but we wanted to make sure there was an opportunity to express concerns, especially on some of the votes that he’s made so far,” she said.
“The congressman certainly had plenty of opportunity to speak his piece," said Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley. "Whether the message reverberated with those that were here, from the responses, I don’t think so, I think it was a hostile audience. In a democracy, civil discourse avoids the violence that creates revolutions.”
Faso was most animated responding to the tax reform question, posed by Democratic opponent Sue Sullivan of Plattekill, one of the eight primary candidates vying for his seat in 2018. “I’m going to keep fighting to end the New York Medicaid mandate on the local property taxpayers,” Faso said. “This is what’s killing New York. We are being depopulated in Upstate.”
story courtesy of Mid Hudson News