Walden critics hold two Bend 'town halls' without him

Say he hasn't held such a Bend event in 4 years

Bend town hall meeting held sans Walden

BEND, Ore. - There were two town hall meetings in Bend Thursday night, but they were both missing a key component that most meetings have: the person they all wanted to hear from and ask questions of.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.,actually was in his home district, holding a town hall in Ontario on Wednesday, but the second Bend meeting Thursday night without him actually had more people.

Walden last held a public town hall meeting in Bend in January 2013, before President Barack Obama started his second term. He holds them in every county in the sprawling Second District every year, but not in Bend, which has grown to become the district's largest city (topping Medford).

Some Bendites -- primarily the Democrats who aren't his fans anyway -- are getting restless waiting for him, saying they feel disregarded by someone who votes on their behalf.

They made plenty of signs for Thursday's events, many of which focused on issues surrounding President Donald Trump. The signs were raised aloft whenever the conversation touched an important topic -- which was often.

Oregon's Second District, which covers Southern, Central and Eastern Oregon, is one of the nation's largest, by area.

But the people at the meeting -- some of whom have been staging weekly "Where's Walden?" protests at his Bend office -- don't see that as an excuse to "ignore" the largest city in the district. (He does visit the area frequently, for other meetings, some open to the public.)

"It's a big district, but (Democratic) Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley have a big state, and we see them here all the time," Deschutes County Democrats Chair Jason Burge said. "We just want to wish the same from our congressman."

Much of the meeting focused on the biggest issue associated with Walden -- health care. Walden is the chair of the congressional committee where Republicans plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, although he's recently re-worded that phrase to "repair and replace".

His constituents had several questions for him regarding health care.

"Under your new proposal, will you be able to not only have access to insurance, will you be able to afford it?" asked Bend resident Laurie Doherty. "Because Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act."

With no Walden there, though, the questions went unanswered.

Walden did hold a "telephone town hall" with constituents recently, but according to people at Thursday night's meeting, few people got to ask questions and get answers.

Walden's spokesman has said the congressman intends to hold a town hall in Bend sometime this year.

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