A standing room only crowd of more than 80 people gathered on Monday, April 10, for Congressman Markwayne Mullin's town hall meeting at the Mariee Wallace Museum in Jay.

At least 80 people, including at least two dozen members of Grand Lake Indivisible, filled the room to pepper the District 2 Congressman with questions during the hour long session.

At times contentious, the session involved questions concerning the environment - specifically the Tar Creek area, health care and the Affordable Care Act, and immigration.

At the start of the session, Mullin established a set of ground rules for behavior expectations.

He reminded people that while they may not agree on specific issues, at the heart, everyone in attendance could find common ground as Americans.

"We all get emotional about politics," Mullin said. "There's nothing wrong with emotion. We can agree to disagree, without becoming hateful."

Mullin said his goal from the town hall - the first of five stops on Monday - was to help separate fact from fiction, as well as listen to what constituents had to say.

He asked those present to remain respectful, and cognitive of the time constraints. Because the session was limited to one hour, Mullin asked each participant to limit their questions, so a multitude of individuals could be heard.

"I ask that you give me enough respect to answer [the questions]," Mullin said. "This is not a time to debate or yell."

Mullin also asked participants to refrain from holding up signs - many came to the session with red and green index-sized cards, designed to show support, or dissent, in a non-violent manner.

Taking questions

At several points during the session, Mullin asked one participant - Jan Menge - to refrain from talking over him, as he answered questions regarding health care.

Menge, of Eucha, took offense at Mullin's answers regarding the Affordable Care Act and its potential replacement, saying his actions were part of the "horrible, immoral [and] fiscally foolish battle against the ACA."

"I am respectful as long as you are honest," Menge said, as Mullin asked her to allow him to answer her question.

At one point, as Mullin threatened to have Menge expelled from the session, she turned to the crowd and asked is she should be silenced and/or leave.

A majority of those present clapped and responded 'yes' as Menge returned to her seat. Mullin asked those present to stop, saying that it was causing a disruption in the meeting.

At one point during the session, Mullin became visibly angry, as someone in the audience raised a question about the motives behind his service as a congressman.

"This is a service for me, not a career," Mullin said several times. "I'm gone 42 weeks out of the year and I do my best to serve you.

"Politics was never part of my life. I ran for office because I was fed up with things going on in DC."

Mullin said he remains in office in order to help his children, and the children who come next, have a brighter future.

Vicke Adams, the newly elected chairman of the Delaware County Democrats, asked Mullin about how the changes in health care would impact people like herself - older, self-employed, who did not qualify for policies before the ACA was enacted. 

She left the session frustrated, because she said, Mullin did not "really answer her question" as to how the new health plan would impact people. 

Grove Superintendent Sandy Coaly asked the final question, quizzing Mullin concerning his stance on public education and potential federal funding cuts to programs like Title II and career technology.

Coaly said while Mullin did express his support for public education, he did not address the specific programs in her question. Instead Mullin said it would be better to have the monies remain within the state, rather than go to the federal government for disbursal. 

Different responses

Shelly Cannon of Grove attended Monday's session as a member of Grand Lake Indivisible, a new political organization in Delaware County.

Cannon said it is exciting to see area residents become engaged in the political system.

"We've got to get our voices heard," Cannon said. "So many people complained but didn't get out to vote [in November].

"To fix [things] we need to get people out to vote. The only way to do that is to get our voices heard."

Tom Campbell of Twin Oaks left the session after only a half an hour. 

Campbell said said he could only stand to listen to a portion of the meeting.

"I am 71 years old and I believe that a majority of those in attendance were about my age," Campbell said. "I was surprised that the congressman found it necessary to ask people old enough to be his parents to behave like adults. But what was worse was that so many chose to ignore his request."

Campbell, who wanted to ask a question regarding income tax and the Dodd/Frank legislation, left without addressing the issue with Mullin.

"I hate rude behavior in people," Campbell said. "I don't care for it, and I don't like to be around it."

Campbell said he left because the meeting's tone, from the outset indicated that issues were not going to be discussed in a rational manner.

"I don't care what your beliefs are, there's no reason to be rude or to take over the whole show and talk over people."