Mohawk Valley Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) was on the defensive for the majority of her first in-person town hall Tuesday night. More than 300 people attended the event that was hosted in the Oneida County town of Camden.
Throughout the event, Tenney stood by her conservative positions on gun control, immigration and the minimum wage. But it was health care that dominated the evening. She sparred with the crowd several times over issues like a bill that would enact universal health care.
"See all of the Bernie Sanders fans out there? Those are people who like socialism. They don't believe in a constitutional republic,” Tenney said to a mixture of boos and applause. “We fought socialism.”
One of the members of the crowd then shouted out about fascism, to which Tenney said the extreme ideology is on the left end of the political spectrum.
Tenney’s often defiant tone upset some who attended the event, like Karen Savoca from Oneida.
"I thought she made people feel badly for questions,” Savoca said. “I mean she even corrected somebody's grammar. I felt she was snarky and I felt that she talked down to people."
But her supporters like Valarie Lutz of Deerfield said it was the crowd who was rude. Lutz defended Tenney and the town hall.
“Obviously, she has done research,” Lutz said. “She had answers, she had personal experience involved. She didn’t just say, ‘Because I said so.’ She would explain how it pertained to either her personal life, her personal business, politically, her experience in Albany and Washington.”
At times, the congresswoman did win applause from the majority of those in the room, like when Tenney discussed her support for programs that the Trump administration proposed gutting in its executive budget; her interest in possibly co-sponsoring a bill that would allow some childhood immigrants a path to legalization; and her comment that repealing the Affordable Care Act may not be the only answer to improving the nation’s immigration system.
“You know repeal, replace, repair, I’m fine if it’s repair,” Tenney said. “Let’s repair what we have here. A lot of Democrats maybe feel more comfortable with the word repair, let’s repair it.”
Denise Nepveux of Utica said she was pleased to hear Tenney mention repairing Obamacare, but she wants the congresswoman to ultimately take actions that protect low-income Americans.
Nepveux and others at the town hall were pleased that Tenney finally hosted the event after months of delays. Tenney’s staff said threats made against the congresswoman earlier in the year were to blame, and the reason that more than 20 officers were present and people were screened as they entered the venue.
Paying for that extra security is the reason why Tenney said her campaign hosted the event rather than her office, which had drawn criticism from a political opponent.