Rep. Sean Duffy: Congressman fields hot topic questions from constituents

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Editor's note: The article published in print and this version of the story originally stated that "agree and disagree" signs were distributed by Congressman Duffy's staff. That was incorrect. The staff did not distribute those signs.

In the midst of heated town halls around the nation, Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District held a packed town hall at Ready Randy's in New Richmond Monday morning.

The event was the eighth town hall Duffy said he has held this year, as part of an attempt to hold one each year in every county he represents.

"Congressman Duffy is one of the most accessible members of Congress, and has kept the promise he made when he was first elected in 2010 to hold an in-person town hall in every single one of the 26 counties in the 7th Congressional District every year that he serves," Duffy's communications director, Mark Bednar, said. "And he is proud to have kept that promise."

It was the first of the year in St. Croix County.

Monday's town hall followed meetings on Wednesday, Feb. 22, set up by Indivisible Hudson, an area community group, to speak with Duffy's staff after the members saw no town halls scheduled in the area.

"We wanted to let Congressman Duffy know what we thought and hear what he had to say," member Rick Wylie said. "Enough unsettling things are going on no matter what side of the aisle you're on that are generating discussion."

Wylie said he'd like to see Duffy host more town halls, especially since other events around the nation have gotten loud and angry.

"The more a congressman would have of these sorts of thing, the more informative and substantive they will become," he said.

Members of the group were present at the town hall.

As Duffy opened the event, he asked the audience for a civil dialogue. He said he and his mother, a Bernie Sanders supporter, were able to hold different political views and still be civil. He asked the same from the audience.

"We can agree to disagree because we still love each other and we're still family," he said. "Look at each other as a big American family."

Members of the audience came armed with agree and disagree signs, using them to express their opinions on topics. Still, the hour-long discussion was heated, with cheers and boos to various questions and responses. Staff collected submitted questions before the meeting, and had the authors ask them as they were pulled. Several audience members attempted to interrupt and ask other questions.

"Whatever happened to love trumps hate?" Duffy said.

Monday morning's town hall was announced Sunday evening. During the event, Duffy was asked how those who were unable to be at the town hall at that time were supposed to do so, and how constituents could expect more advanced notice.

Duffy explained he's held town halls at various times of the day, and that the day's crowd indicated there were plenty of interested citizens.

In fact, the place was packed, with sheriff's deputies—and John Shilts, the county sheriff—also attending to keep the peace.

During the 60-minute event, Duffy fielded several questions regarding topics that included health care, the media, President Donald Trump's proposed wall along the Mexican border, Russia's alleged involvement in the election and with Trump, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' policies, Social Security and more.

Duffy said he was in support of repealing the Affordable Care Act. He said though he knows the program has helped some people, it has hurt others.

"We have to find a system that works for everyone," he said.

Bill Giese of Hudson asked if Duffy would support an appointment of a special investigation to look into the Trump's campaign ties to Russia. Duffy said he hasn't seen the evidence to justify a special investigation. He said he's seen that Russia's effect on the election, but not the connection with Trump.

Karen Johnson of Hudson said she was concerned about transparency in the government, and asked Duffy his opinion on two bills in the house calling for the president and vice president to reveal and divest from conflicts of interest and investigate the current administration's ties to Russia.

Duffy said he would look into the bills, and supported transparency in the executive branch. He said he supported Trump releasing his tax records, and Hillary Clinton releasing her emails.

He also said though he wasn't a fan of Russian involvement, he did not support a witch hunt against the president.

"Russia is no friend of ours. Putin is a thug," he said.

When asked about an apparent lack of reliable news sources, Duffy said he looks at all sides of media, and takes in different sources.

"It's important that we trust the media, but the media has to build that trust with us," he said.

Duffy is expected to hold about 20 more town halls this year.