After facing several months of protests in their districts, Reps. Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter finally held town hall meetings.

About 900 people attended Issa’s two town hall sessions in Oceanside over the weekend, and 300 packed Hunter’s meeting in Ramona, with many more protesters who could not gain entry rallying outside both venues.

Both crowds were overwhelming hostile to President Donald Trump – and by association, his two prominent supporters – and made it clear they want their congressmen to oppose his agenda. The focus at Issa’s town hall was on preserving the Affordable Care Act, but both discussed Russia, immigration, building a wall on the border and banning travel from six Muslim countries.

As I wrote for The Coast News, Issa’s event was full of jeers at his indirect answers to direct questions.

“If the Congressional Budget Office says that (health care) costs will go up, and less people will be covered, will you support it?” an attendee asked.

“You know …” Issa said, before being drowned out by the sound of 450 people groaning, and then shouting, “Yes or No.”

He finally settled on stating that he would continue to make improvements to health care access, but wouldn’t commit to voting against the Republican health care plan.

Two days later, he did.

Hunter’s town hall was largely a defense of Trump, and his own campaign finance scandal, which has been extensively covered by the Union-Tribune. Hunter later told KUSI that all the jeering at his meeting was just the reaction of people “not having their president anymore.”

The town halls are important. At the very least, they represent the first of such meetings that either representative has held in months – even as their constituents demanded them – but also because the nation is waiting to see whether the anti-Trump sentiment fueling them will grow into the same organized political force that the Tea Party did, against President Barack Obama.

After all, as the Washington Post pointed out, the only local issue that came up in Issa’s town halls was when the congressman himself brought up nuclear fuel at San Onofre – otherwise, voters were focused on national issues.

•  The County Board of Supervisors, by the way, endorsed Issa’s plan to move forward on temporarily storing nuclear fuel this week.

• A judge dismissed a lawsuit Issa filed against Applegate, in which he accused Applegate of making libelous statements. (Union-Tribune)

… Which Brings Us to the Democrats

In November, Issa actually lost to Democrat Doug Applegate in the San Diego County portion of his district, but voters in Orange County helped push Issa to a narrow victory overall.

Applegate immediately announced he would challenge Issa again in 2018, and has made appearances outside major events in the district, including the town hall on Saturday and an event in February in Vista.

Mike Levin, an attorney and former head of the Democratic Party in Orange County, also announced that he was running, and has since been a bit more brazen in his approach. He spoke at both the Vista event and the town hall, asking Issa a question about climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Applegate was a bit sour about Levin’s appearances.

“You think that was a coincidence?” he said.

Mike Levin told me he somehow got a winning number (questioners were chosen by drawing numbers).

“There’s no explanation for the real town hall, other than pure luck. Preparation meeting opportunity,” he said.

He said that he and an intern each had tickets to ask a question, one of two got called, and Issa’s staffer didn’t recognize him and handed him the microphone.

“I said, ‘I cannot be this lucky.’”

Applegate was a bit sour about Levin’s appearances.

“You think that was a coincidence?” Applegate said.

Levin told me he somehow got a winning number (questioners were chosen by drawing numbers).

“There’s no explanation for the real town hall, other than pure luck. Preparation meeting opportunity,” Levin said.

Levin said he and an intern each had tickets to ask a question; one of two got called. Issa’s staffer didn’t recognize Levin and handed him the microphone.

“I cannot be this lucky,” Levin said he thought to himself.

Oceanside Weighs Rural or Urban

How to grow and keep your quirks is a common question in North County.

These formerly small towns in the hinterlands are transitioning into medium-sized cities, giving up a little bit of their past in order to meet the demands of a growing population.

That scenario played out in Oceanside last week, where the City Council discussed building homes, a hotel, shops and restaurants in Morro Hills, an agricultural area of Oceanside that is trying to grow its tourist appeal.

The Union-Tribune’s Phil Diehl summed up the workshop: “Putting nearly 1,000 new homes in an Oceanside area focused on agriculture really doesn’t make much sense, City Council members said last week, but they didn’t slam the door on the idea.”

The developer is Integral Communities, which is no stranger to residents in this part of North County. Integral has a knack for getting projects approved in areas that require changes to cities’ land use plans.

In December, Vista approved a hotel and nearly 200 townhomes at a business park, and in 2015, Integral was behind the 420-unit Villa Storia project (apparently now called Mission Lane), next to the Mission San Luis Rey.

The Mission Lane project was also enveloped in a debate about preserving unique, historical parts of the city. The discussion around the new project reminds me of one of my early stories for Voice, about agricultural rules in suburban Encinitas.

Also in the News

 A “pavement failure” in Encinitas is being likened to an underground landslide that devastated a Norwegian town in 1978. (The Coast News)

 A developer has its eyes on the bluffs in Del Mar for a new resort. (Union-Tribune)

• The Del Mar Fairgrounds might take out a $13 million loan for a new concert venue. (Union-Tribune)

 Vista will look to allow medical marijuana businesses, and stem off an initiative that would loosen the rules even further. (Union-Tribune)

 Encinitas is updating its Climate Action Plan. (Union-Tribune)

 Carlsbad sees right now, before double tracking is started, as its only opportunity to trench the train tracks. (KPBS)

 New Google Earth images show the construction of the housing for the steel casks that will hold the spent nuclear fuel at San Onofre. (Union-Tribune)

Ruarri Serpa

Ruarri Serpa is a freelance writer in Oceanside. Email him at and find him on Twitter at @RuarriS.

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