US Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) held a Meet & Greet event on Friday, April 15 at the Greensboro Marriott Downtown to meet constituents and hear their thoughts.
This meet & greet was the first such event for Budd, according to his staffers.
A freshman representative from Advance, North Carolina, Budd was elected to the US House of Representatives in the 2016 election. He currently serves as representative for North Carolina’s 13th District and in the Committee on Financial Services.
Caseworkers from Budd’s staff were on-site to help constituents with difficulties in federal government interactions.
A variety of concerns were raised by constituent attendants, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal, NC education, veterans’ affairs and NC jobs, among many others.
“This meeting had people who supported me, but by and large it was people who disagreed with me on a lot of issues,” Budd said of the conversations. “But to be able to engage with them and to know that I can hear their concerns [is good].”
Many invoked themselves or family and friends as examples of those benefitting from ACA. These constituents urged Budd to support and improve ACA over repealing and replacing.
“I have Multiple Sclerosis,” Melanie Bassett said. “I bought my own insurance all my life until I absolutely could not afford it anymore, and then I was left out in the cold until ACA came along. My meds cost $80,000 a year, and without ACA I’d never be able to have them. And I’d probably be in a wheelchair now.”
“I was thanking [Budd] for his opposition to the American Health Care Act,” Steve Bird said, “saying that it was probably for different reasons, but I hope that he could work towards expanding healthcare going forward, that we all recognize that there are problems with ACA that need to be fixed.”
“If it weren’t for Obamacare I wouldn’t have been able to get this Parkinson’s diagnosed,” Wayne Morgan said. “I lost my job, fell and broke my foot… Couldn’t afford to go to a doctor. Then Obamacare came, I had health care for a year… All I’m asking is when [Budd] goes back to congress, to be the first Republican to go over to the Democrats and say ‘I’m here to work, I’m not going to repeal, let’s make Obamacare better.’ That’s all I want.”
Other constituents spoke in support of Planned Parenthood, which Budd voted to defund.
Budd stated that his opposition to Planned Parenthood stemmed from its provision of abortions, and did not want federal money going to it, despite the Hyde Amendment already prohibiting tax dollars from funding abortions.
“I also wanted to express some concern, because he voted for House Resolution 43,” local activist Jaime Brown said, “which basically defunds Planned Parenthood… when [Republicans] defund Planned Parenthood, they basically defund healthcare for low-income men and women. STD testing, mammograms [and] pap smears, birth control. If we can’t go there, then where can we go?”
“I really want to know what his plan is for [people left without healthcare from Planned Parenthood],” Sangeetha Shiraji said. “Because right now [Budd’s] soundbite is that people can access these services at other places, but he doesn’t actually have a list of places people can go, because 58 percent of that population are in their twenties and they don’t have insurance… these places are ones where you need insurance.”
While fewer in number, a sizable portion attended to encourage and support Budd. Others came to float political ideas and suggestions, also intending to learn more about Budd as a politician.
“I just wanted to see what his plan was, being a political outsider,” James Ingram said. “And what his thoughts were about going forward in Washington… making sure it becomes a fiscally-responsible place, and giving political power back to the people, and seeing if [Budd] agreed with that idea of reconnecting people with their government in a responsible manner.”
“I wanted to let [Budd] know that I appreciated him even having a community event,” Brown said. “I don’t think this format was the most conducive for talking… but I’m glad that he was at least here. Senator Burr… and Senator Tillis haven’t had anything.”
Others came to learn more about the new congressman and his positions.
“I just wanted to hear his views as a first-time congressman,” Gary Evans said. “Just see where his wider thinking is.”
Complaints were raised over the lack of amplification. The background chatter meant that only those standing directly beside Budd were able to hear, as pointed out several times by attendees. Resultantly, the conversation formed with Budd packed in by a mass of constituents.
Budd stated that he thought this format would be more conducive to one-on-one conversation, being more private than an amplified town hall.
“[The event format] gets me very close to people who have more private concerns that they may not want to share in a larger format,” Budd said. “So, we like the face-to-face contact. They can ask questions, we think it’s actually more free to do it like this… The real thing is what is the best way to connect with the most people in an authentic manner.”
A Greensboro Marriott Downtown employee stated that voice amplification equipment could have been provided mid-event if requested.
Budd’s staff estimated that attendance was around 200 people.