Several Louisa County residents attended a live town hall event hosted for Rep. Dave Brat in Blackstone on Feb. 21.
According to Blackstone police, about 500 people attended, but not all of them were able to get a seat inside. The venue—a banquet room belonging to the small, but hospitable, Blackstone Herb Cottage—held around 150 people. The rest of those who attended were outside looking in.
A few Louisa residents were among those who made it inside. Audio speakers provided by the town ensured everyone heard the questions and answers, sometimes over the enthusiastic chanting of those outside.
About 25 percent of the crowd consisted of Brat supporters carrying “Brat Pack” and “We support Dave Brat” signs. Hundreds of others carried signs indicating their displeasure with the congressman, the congressional agenda and President Donald Trump.
Blackstone Mayor William Coleburn chose questions at random for Brat to address. Questions were not taken from the floor, but were submitted on index cards, and covered a range of issues including healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, alleged Russian involvement in the election, Second Amendment issues, the environment and social security.
Jeanne Wolf, of Louisa, said she made the nearly two-hour drive to the event because she believes it is important to “vote with our ballots, but also with our presence.” Now confined to a wheelchair, she said she remembers the money that was taken out of her paycheck every week to pay for the services that she now needs to use. She is concerned about proposals to possibly phase out the Social Security and Disabilities program and replace it with a private sector plan. Wolf fears this will lead to cutting benefits to pay for profits for a privately run system.
Retired College of William and Mary professor Juanita Jo Matkins has a newfound sense of engagement since the election. “I had been quiet too long, letting others speak for me. Now I want to make sure my voice is heard,” the Louisa resident said.
As a breast cancer survivor, she is concerned about the increased costs of medical care. She questioned Brat’s counting on free market plans to provide accessible, affordable and high quality health care to the American public.
Brat responded often to questions about issues with “free market solutions” during the question and answer session. When asked a question about climate change, he responded, “The climate changes all the time,” and said the market could resolve the issue better than government.
Aleta Strickland, also a resident of Louisa, has contacted Brat through phone calls, letters and emails.
“I just never got a satisfactory response from him.” Strickland said, explaining why she rearranged her schedule to make the long drive to Blackstone.
Whitney Coleman, who lives in Bumpass, also attended the meeting. She said that after the town hall, Brat “is now fully aware that accountability matters to the voters in the 7th.”