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Full House At Rep. Peter Welch's First Town Hall Meeting Since Trump's Inauguration

Rebecca Sananes
Congressman Peter Welch at his first town hall meeting since Trump's inauguration in January. Welch spoke to a full house in the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction.

There was standing room only at Rep. Peter Welch’s town hall meeting in White River Junction on Friday night.

Representatives from all over the United States are holding these types of meetings in their districts during the first recess of this legislative session; this was Welch’s first town hall meeting since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Welch made opening remarks and asked the crowd: “By show of hands, how many people in the past haven’t spent their Friday nights [at town halls] to talk politics?”

Laughing, nearly everyone in the room raised a hand.

Welch then opened the floor to questions and comments.

“My name is Sharon Blake. I am one of your constituents, and I am not being paid to be here,” the first person to take the microphone joked.

For nearly two hours, people from all over Vermont raised concerns, the most common of which regarded the Trump administration's ties to Russia, and environmental issues.

Credit Rebecca Sananes / VPR
Dee Gish of Sharon holds a sign encouraging Welch and his peers to investigate President Trump's ties to Russia.

Some asked Welch how to impeach Trump.

“It’s not a quick and easy solution,” Welch responded. “The thing you have to deal with and acknowledge is [that] we just had an election ... I didn’t vote for Trump, but America elected him.”

He continued: “It’s not like within 40 days of an election you can undo it easily by impeachment without significant repercussions. So as far as it being a practical option, there are a lot of impediments, but I get your point.”

"It's not like within 40 days of an election you can undo it easily by impeachment without significant repercussions. So as far as it being a practical option, there are a lot of impediments, but I get your point." – Rep. Peter Welch

Some – mostly self-described supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders – questioned Congressman Welch on the Democratic Party itself. One audience member raised concerns about the recent choice of Tom Perez as the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. But Welch assured the audience that he and Rep. Keith Ellison – who some saw as the more progressive candidate for the chairmanship – were pleased with the decision and the direction of the party.

Credit Rebecca Sananes / VPR
For about two hours on Friday evening, Rep. Peter Welch took comments and questions from Vermonters ranging from concerns about the EPA to nepotism in President Trump's administration.

Though the crowd was predominantly older, and almost entirely white, the last person to address Welch was 17-year-old Lucy Danger of White River Junction.

Danger encouraged Welch to connect with local youth activists.

“I think that can serve as a bridge,” she told him as the meeting ran overtime, “because at the end of the day, if social activism is changing minds, political activism is changing the law. That’s a really vital connection to make.”

Congressman Welch’s town hall meeting was crowded, but tame, unlike some of his Republican counterparts'.

Last week, Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz – who chairs the House Oversight Committee – was heckled on stage. A video showing his constituents chanting “Do your job!” has since gone viral.

Rebecca Sananes was VPR's Upper Valley Reporter. Before joining the VPR Newsroom, she was the Graduate Fellow at WBUR and a researcher on a Frontline documentary.
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