At the front of a middle-school auditorium, 27-year-old Kristen Reaver faced-off with 61-year-old Republican Rep. Ted Yoho.
Reaver was one of about 20 constituents chosen in a lottery-style system to ask the congressman, who represents Alachua, Clay, Bradford and parts of Marion County, a 45-second-or-less question at his second Gainesville town hall of the year.
The town hall, which drew an audience of almost 500, was held Monday evening at Abraham Lincoln Middle School, located at 1001 SE 12th St. Similar to Yoho’s first town hall in the city, held on March 4, the majority of attendees weren’t fans of the congressman.
“Do you believe human activity is the leading cause of climate change?” Reaver, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in environmental science, asked.
“No,” the congressman immediately interjected.
“Please explain why your personal opinion as a nonexpert in the field is more valuable than the evidence of 97 percent of scientists,” Reaver pressed.
Her rebuttal received a standing ovation.
At Yoho’s previous town hall, disgruntled Yoho protesters clashed with the congressman as well as the few attendees who supported him. At the end, a supporter of President Donald Trump was punched in the face and taken to the hospital, according to Alligator archives.
On Monday, Yoho had trouble speaking over the continuous chorus of boos and heckles. Of the nearly 50 similar town halls the congressman has participated in throughout his career, he said Monday’s audience gave him the most trouble.
“I really expected them to be a bit more civil,” Yoho said. “This was the rowdiest crowd.”
Joy Pitts, the leader of Gainesville’s chapter of Indivisible, a national movement dedicated to resisting policies implemented by Trump’s administration, said the audience’s volume level was to be expected — and that Yoho’s responses weren’t straight forward.
“I think there was a lot of circle talk coming from the congressman, that’s the frustration,” she said. “Democracy is loud. Democracy is messy.”
One member of Indivisible changed Yoho’s mind regarding Trump’s unreleased tax returns.
Yoho told audience members that at first, he didn’t care if Trump released the returns because it wasn’t something required by the constitution. However, when the anti-Trump activist visited his office to explain how suspicious Trump’s international business dealings were in relation to his presidency, Yoho had a change of heart.
While Yoho has crossed Trump before — namely as a member of the House Freedom Caucus that helped sink the president’s proposed health care act — Pitts said she thinks this is the first time Yoho has publicly called for Trump to release his tax returns.
“Our voice does get heard every once and awhile,” she said.
While the line gathered, about 15 people sat at two picnic tables pulled together with Scott Hunter as he hosted a seder, a meal that welcomes the Jewish holiday of Passover.
About 50 more watched while in line.
He served matzo, a type of flat Jewish cracker; grape juice; and horseradish and served the food to people standing in line. He said he was dismayed the town hall was planned for the first night of Passover.
“Every Jew in Gainesville had to make a decision tonight,” he said. “They could either celebrate their freedom of religion with their family or their freedom of speech here.”
During the rest of the town hall, constituents asked questions related to health care, climate change, women’s health, transgender rights, Trump’s tax returns and Russia’s intervention in the presidential election.
Yoho told the audience he disagreed with Trump’s decision to bomb the Syrian air field Friday.
He said he’s opposed to further air strikes and is definitely not in favor of sending troops.
“I was very angry that night,” he said. “Killing people is just wrong. There’s enough killing going on.”
Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell sat in the second row while Yoho addressed the crowd. He said although they disagree on issues such as the environment and health care, he’s glad Yoho took the time to listen to the citizens.
“I appreciate him actually holding the town hall. I think that’s important,” Cornell said. “We don’t agree on a lot of things, but I’m glad he’s here listening to the people.”
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A man holds up a sign reading "Lock up Trump for treason, Yoho can visit" at the town hall meeting with Ted Yoho. The mood from many of the attendees was contrarian, as they were displeased with Yoho's actions in D.C.