Last night I shot the townhall meeting by Congressman Brian Baird in Ilwaco. With all the unusual stuff that has been happening at these things lately we knew it had potential to be a good story. But it seems that our mellow beach manners got the best of us as people stayed pretty civil throughout the two hour event.
I got there an hour and a half before the start of the meeting, having read that there had been picketers outside of other Baird townhalls, and in some cases LaRouche supporters with their "Obama as Hitler" signs. When I arrived there were only about 25-30 people outside. These folks here were the first to pull out signs.
Local GOP chair Nan Malin was out there as well, talking to folks and tweeting — I told her she was way trendy. She agreed.
When it came time to let people in, they had to leave their signs outside — including those supporting Baird (rules of the house is what they telling people, as it was a school building).
But even inside the signs were still present. This fellow here was really the only lefty signholder. I thought it was interesting how they separated themselves a few feet apart on the sidewalk. I thought it was also interesting how people didn't really engage each other, even though some of the picketers were standing essentially in the way of the ramp to get inside and people had to walk through their group to get in. A group of about 7-8 stayed outside, despite the fact that there was still room. From what I heard from them talking amongst themselves they didn't like the fact that people would be drawn from a pool to ask questions and that you had to be a resident of his district in order to ask a question (they were from Oregon).
Once inside things were pretty mellow. That's my boss, Matt Winters, editor/publisher of the Observer, to Baird's right leading the flag salute. He was the moderator for the evening.
People who signed up to ask a question were given a number and Matt drew from the bunch a few at a time to see who would go next.
It was interesting that in a community that votes so blue so much that IMO the greater majority of folks there were GOP-affiliated or at least right-leaning, as were the majority of questions asked. A couple times it seemed on the verge of maybe getting a little heated, but (unfortunately for the sake of my photos) never did.
And then there was Mrs. Snider, who was quite animated in her reactions to his answers, and was pretty entertaining to watch.
All in all I think Baird held his own pretty well, and IMO, I think he showed in his answers that he isn't a super-lefty, which I think maybe some feel that he was. He said repeatedly that he had not made up his mind on how to vote on the health care bill, and seemed pretty interested in what folks had to say. He's definitely come along way from the first time I shot him, flipping pancakes at a fundraiser for his first campaign for Congress in 1999 while I was working at the Columbian.