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Published:September 10th, 2010 18:19 EST

Tom Perriello Shines At Town Hall Meeting

By Robert Paul Reyes

We`ve all seen footage of raucous Town Hall Meetings on YouTube and on the TV News. I was prepared for a lively session when I attended my first town hall meeting in the small town of Rustburg, Virginia.

perrielloBut the small crowd of about fifty, most of them middle-aged folks and senior citizens were polite, well informed and courteous.

Most of the audience members were local citizens, but I did chat for a few minutes with Peter Voegili a correspondent for Swiss Radio who is based in D.C.

The host of the town hall meeting, Rep. Tom Perrriello, from Virginia`s fifth district, was on top of his game, fielding all of the queries with nuanced and intelligent answers. The novice congressman was verbose, but expecting a politician not to be longwinded isn`t realistic.

One gentleman asked Rep. Perriello what grades he would give Obama and Pelosi. To his credit the congressman didn`t dodge the query, replying that he would give Obama and Pelosi a B+. But to sooth conservative nerves, Rep. Perriello went to great lengths pointing out the areas where he disagreed with these Democratic heavyweights.

Democrat Rep. Perriello is fighting a tough battle for reelection in a heavily conservative district, and it wasn`t surprising that in his opening remarks he covered issues, like National Defense and the Budget Deficit, that are near and dear to the heart of conservatives.

At one point in the town hall meeting Rep. Perriello invoked the revered name of Ronald Reagan, this liberal reporter winced but the crowd ate it up.

I reminded the congressman that his opening remarks were tailor-made for a conservative audience. Some Democrats are concerned that Rep. Perriello is neglecting his liberal base. My question was in reference to national health care, I asked the congressman if he had been personally touched by the health care crisis, specifically if he knew any family members or close friends who didn`t have health insurance.

Rep. Perriello deftly deflected my question, responding that he has met with several constituents who don`t have medical insurance.

I was impressed by the intelligent discourse, marred only by a loony gentleman who asked Rep. Perriello if he would vote to impeach President Obama and Vice President Biden when he returned to Congress. This man felt that it was treason for Obama to "allow this country to be invaded my illegal aliens. The congressman earned a hearty round of applause when he replied empathically that he would not. Rep. Perriello argued that we shouldn`t criminalize Obama`s stance on immigration reform or any other issue.

The participants of the town hall meeting were predominantly conservative, only this reporter and another audience member asked the type of question that resonates with progressive voters.

Overall I was impressed by this exhibition of democracy in action; my only complaint is that there were only a handful of young adults in the audience. In order for our democracy to thrive more young folks need to get involved in the political process.

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