Sentiment simmers at Cassidy town hall

by Wynce Nolley

Sen. Bill Cassidy is introduced by Breaux Bridge Mayor Ricky Calais.
Photo by Wynce Nolley

On Friday morning, Sen. Bill Cassidy ended his weeklong town hall tour across the state in Breaux Bridge where he addressed constituents about his Patient Freedom Act bill and the controversy surrounding the potential repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

This town hall was met with much tension following Cassidy’s baleful town hall event in Metairie earlier this week where audience members greeted him with boos and jeers.

While the town hall meeting in Breaux Bridge City Hall was significantly less chaotic, it still served as a venue for supporters and dissenters to clash in a heated, yet civil discourse.

In his opening remarks, Cassidy was upfront about the tension in the air surrounding the event.

“We have to respect each other's ability to speak and if some folks want to get up and drown out others just to make a statement, that is not fair to those who are drowned out,” Cassidy said.

He then spent the next hour sparring with the audience trying to deliver his message that included praising Trump’s job creation plans, criticizing Obamacare and advocating for more mental health support. However, the audience at large responded with demands that he answer each of their individual questions.

As the senior senator continued his “conversation” inside with the residents of Acadiana, who filled to capacity the room where he was speaking, many more were crammed in the hallway outside that spilled out of the doors where several protesters could be seen and heard with chants and signs.

Protestors with Indivisible Acadiana march outside Breaux Bridge City Hall.
Photo by Wynce Nolley

One such protestor with Indivisible Acadiana, the local chapter of the organized grassroots movement opposed to Trump, asked that he be identified by his first name and zip code — Ken 70592 — and said he was present to assert his right to have his opinion heard.

“We’re all local. We all live here,” he said. “We are not being paid, but we have paid to be here. We have paid our taxes.”

Ken didn’t mince words regarding his dislike for the president, but he said his primary goal is to hold Cassidy and other elected officials in the state accountable.

“My main message is that we want our senator to check and balance,” Ken said. “I want all of our delegation to check and balance.”

Cassidy also had his fair share of local support, including Mike Trahan, who said that while he’s not a Republican, he supported Trump and Cassidy and came out to ensure everybody’s voice was heard.

“These people are out here and they have a voice,” he says. “They’re getting their word out and they’re here for what they believe in. They should be protected just like any other group should be protected. And that’s why I'm here.”

Local teacher Melissa Gilbert was another Indivisible protester, though she says her primary reason for coming out was to protest Cassidy’s health care plan specifically, which relies heavily on health savings accounts.

“My deductible is currently about $2,500,” she says. “Last year, I was only able to make $1400 in contributions to my HSA. So, if it’s that difficult for me, how is that going to work for people with families, people with kids, people working 40 hour minimum wage jobs that don’t give them benefits? It’s not feasible.”

For more images, check out the IND's photo gallery of Cassidy's Town Hall and see video of the event below.