At Meet-And-Greet, CT Rep. Chris Murphy Meets Some Hostility

Hartford Courant

Photo by BETTINA HANSEN, Hartford Courant, August 5, 2009

Photo by BETTINA HANSEN, Hartford Courant, August 4, 2009

August 5, 2009

SIMSBURY–Chanting “Dump Chris Dodd” and “No national health care,” scores of angry constituents confronted U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy at a meet-and-greet outside the Super Stop & Shop Wednesday afternoon.

Murphy, a Democrat who represents the 5th District, routinely holds informal office hours at supermarkets and strip malls, but such gatherings are generally uneventful. This time, many of the 150 or so attendees were so boisterous that Stop & Shop management called the police to ask that the crowd be moved from the store’s entrance.

The scene in Simsbury is being replayed throughout the nation this week as congressional Democrats convene town hall forums and other public get-togethers to win support for the Obama administration’s plan to overhaul the health care system.

One conservative group critical of the plan has put out a call to members, encouraging them to attend these gatherings and voice their opposition to the member of Congress hosting the event. U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Democrat and a leading architect of the health care overhaul, has become a chief target.

Democrats pointed to the rowdy, sometimes vicious tone of some of the comments and said that the protests were part of a well-funded and organized effort to derail the health care plan. Wednesday’s protest drew activists from the Tea Party movement and the so-called Dump Dodd campaign.

But many who attended were not affiliated with an established group. Maryann Culkin, a stay-at-home mother from Avon, said she represents no one but herself. She went to Stop & Shop simply because she wanted to have a word or two with her congressman.

“For the first time in my life, I’m embarrassed and scared of where my country is going,” Culkin told Murphy. She is worried about how the government will pay for Obama’s health care policies.

Murphy said it didn’t matter to him whether those attending were part of a coordinated effort or just on their own.

“Any time I’m talking to my constituents in an unfiltered way I consider it productive,” he said in a phone interview afterward.

Murphy acknowledged that a few angry voices dominated the gathering, at least initially. But he said that didn’t bother him. “Was that out of a Norman Rockwell town meeting painting? No. But there are big issues being discussed in Washington … and people have a right to be concerned, even angry about it.

[Click on the photo to enlarge the image.]

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