Capitol & State

Idaho’s Labrador, his supporters and opponents gear up for Wednesday night town hall

Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, leaves a closed-door strategy session with House Speaker Paul Ryan in late March.
Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, leaves a closed-door strategy session with House Speaker Paul Ryan in late March. AP

Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador will field audience questions for approximately 90 minutes at a town hall meeting in Meridian Wednesday in a bigger-than-ever venue chosen to accommodate a similarly outsized crowd.

Liberal and conservative groups are urging their members to get to the 1,200-seat venue early.

Pent-up demand to see and question the congressman has run high, as it has with other Republican members of Congress, since the election of President Donald Trump. During this year’s congressional recesses, Republican members of Congress have faced hectoring and haranguing by organized opposition at town hall events in their districts. The raucous events have drawn national media attention.

Even without such a predicted turnout, Labrador’s potential candidacy for governor in 2018, together with his prominence as a leader in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is likely to attract interest in the event beyond his congressional district and the state.

He will appear in the auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Meridian Middle School. On the right, the crowd likely will include steadfast supporters from the furthest-right swath of Idaho Republicans and other party loyalists who may be at least partly at odds with Labrador’s public policy disagreements with the president and congressional leaders. On the left will be a broad swath of liberal and progressive interests that oppose the Republican agenda on issues ranging from health care and immigration policy to relations with foreign powers such as Russia and China and military action against the Islamic State and intervention in war-ravaged Syria.

Among the latter group is Boise’s chapter of Indivisible, the national movement that coalesced last fall to oppose the Trump agenda, as well as organizations such as Planned Parenthood and its supporters who oppose Republican efforts to defund the organization because of its pro-abortion rights stand.

Both groups are promoting the Labrador event and urging supporters to attend. Indivisible has published a guide for attendees outlining areas of questioning, recommended tactics and behavior, even a how-to on dealing with the media.

“Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer,” reads one suggestion.

Indivisible is advising members to arrive at the auditorium as early as 5 p.m. to get seats for the 6:30 event. The Ada County Tea Party asked supporters to gather around 6 p.m.

Labrador held a well-publicized town hall in November 2015 and another in March 2016 at his usual location in Meridian City Hall. A few dozen people attended the latter event. Labrador, who won re-election to a fourth term in November, also held two dozen smaller meetings with groups of constituents last August, promoting those on Facebook and in newsletters.

Labrador’s office said the congressman moved Wednesday’s event from City Hall to the middle school to accommodate the anticipated larger turnout. The format is all Q&A with the audience speaking from mics placed in the aisles.

He has a second town hall set for Nampa at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Mission Aviation Fellowship, 112 N. Pilatus Lane.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @DentzerNews