A pastor stood in his robin’s egg-blue shirt and clergy’s collar, and Rep. Mark Sanford joked that he couldn’t ignore the raised hand of a man of the cloth.
“When do you think we will have health care for all people in this country?” asked the Rev. Rick Klotz, of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Bluffton.
Many in the crowd of more than 150 who crowded the outdoor pavilion at Sun City Hilton Head responded with a standing ovation. Sanford’s eighth town hall this year at the private retirement community Tuesday morning overwhelmingly focused on health care.
The stop was one of several for Sanford in Beaufort County on Tuesday. Events included a gathering for coffee on Hilton Head, lunch at Five Guys and office hours in Beaufort.
The at-times tense gathering in Sun City started with signs being banned and an attendee confronting Sanford about his much-publicized affair while governor of South Carolina. The man also called President Donald Trump a liar and gave the crowd the middle finger when they objected.
As security moved in to escort the man away, Sanford put a hand on the guard’s shoulder and said, “We’re good.”
“You can say anything you want about me,” Sanford told the man. “You can’t do what you did. ... Let’s do it on humane terms.”
Sanford called himself a “flawed person” whom voters ultimately decided to return to office.
The crowd largely complied with the sign ban. Arthur Boska, 75, even removed his Trump cap, which included a pin reading, “Big Government Sucks.”
Klotz’s question was perhaps the most direct of numerous inquiries to Sanford related to Republicans’ attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act.
“The answer is, I don’t have the answer,” Sanford said in response to when everyone will be covered. “But ultimately each of us will determine the answer. ... It’s a work in motion.”
When asked whether he felt everyone should have insurance, Sanford said it was an individual choice.
The crowd booed.
Sanford noted his “no” vote last month opposing a bill from the House Republican leadership to replace Obamacare. “That should give you solace,” he told Klotz.
The congressman also fielded questions on Trump’s ties to Russia, the environment and a question about his stance on immigration reform — similar to concerns raised in recent town halls since Trump was sworn into office in January.
Bluffton immigration attorney Aimee Deverall prefaced a question by telling Sanford she had “been stalking you for a while.”
She shared an anecdote about a mother of three without a criminal record who will be deported soon and called the immigration system a “moral failure” in asking Sanford to support comprehensive reform.
Sanford said he favors a guest-worker program — for immigrants to work for a season and return home — as a starting point.
“The idea of getting comprehensive reform with Donald Trump, I think it’s a difficult political conundrum,” Sanford said.
Sanford listed health care as one of his constituents’ primary concerns throughout these town halls. He plugged the Obamacare replacement plan introduced in February by himself and Sen. Rand Paul, to a mixed reaction in Sun City.
“You need to respond to the will of your constituents,” Klotz said. “Just do your job. Make our lives better.”