Hecklers Turn Dan Webster, Allen West Meetings Into 'Bedlam'
Partisan opponents crank up the volume against GOP freshmen at town halls
Around the State
U.S. Reps. Daniel Webster and Allen West, who won contentious elections last fall, faced a hail of hecklers at town hall meetings Tuesday night.
All signs point to an orchestrated effort by partisan opponents to turn up the heat on the freshmen congressmen heading into the 2012 election campaign.
The far-left Huffington Post splashed coverage of Webster's Orlando meeting, reporting that the hour-long event "was filled with a constant stream of boos and questioners in the crowd of 300 shouting over each other."
"Twelve minutes into his remarks, Webster couldn't be heard over the shouting on both sides. He tried to continue but then stood quietly for a minute smiling, his hands clasped together in front."
Observers said Democratic activists made up much of the vociferous rabble that attempted to drown out Webster's presentation on Medicare and entitlement reform.
The Orlando Sentinel said the meeting "degenerated into bedlam."
Webster was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning.
West's town hall gathering in Fort Lauderdale was every bit as raucous -- and there was at least one arrest.
"Several hecklers who were planted in the crowd began to jeer and interrupt West's remarks," reported the conservative website, Shark Tank. Police removed one of the more boisterous hecklers.
When other hecklers refused to quiet down, West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, declared, “You’re not going to intimidate me.”
Minutes later, a disruptive and combative woman sitting behind West’s wife was escorted out by police.
"As the unidentified woman was being removed from the proceedings, she continued her tirade and used an expletive to address a police officer, which resulted in the officer arresting the woman for trespassing," Shark Tank reported.
The run-up to Tuesday's confrontations was stoked by state Democratic Party operative Eric Jotkoff, who merrily tweeted: "With all the focus on Webster's Town Hall, almost forgot Allen West has one starting at 7PM in FLL."
Apparently recovered from their calls for "civility" in the wake of the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona last January, Democrats are back to loudly "targeting" congressional Republicans.
West is among 10 Republicans singled out by the Democrats' House Majority PAC, which is running 60-second radio spots in targeted districts.
Democrats, led by neighboring Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, are hoping that redistricting of West's closely contested 22nd Congressional District will make him more vulnerable in 2012, a high-turnout year with the presidential race topping the ballot.
West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel is among the announced Democratic challengers to West, who has been a leading advocate for deep budget cuts.
Webster's 8th Congressional District was previously held by Alan Grayson, one of the most reflexively partisan Democrats in the House. Closely divided among Republicans, Democrats and independents, the Orlando-area district is a hothouse of political activity.
Meantime, the district meetings go on as West hosts another town hall at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Boca Raton's Volen Center, 1515 W. Palmetto Park Road.
West told Sunshine State News on Wednesday morning, “Our country faces enormous challenges and it is imperative, as the debate continues on the future direction of our nation, that I keep my constituents informed.
"I am committed to holding two town hall meetings a month, during which I report back to my constituents and listen to their concerns."
"I am disturbed that a select few of people are using these informative events as their own personal soap box with hopes that by making enough noise, they will intimidate me or what I stand for and how I voted.
"I will not be intimidated. The facts are clear. Unless we take the necessary steps to change the course of Washington spending, we will be the first generation to leave less to our children.”
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.