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Merkley holds three Central Oregon town halls


Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., held a trio of town hall meetings across Central Oregon on Friday, answering questions on a wide variety of issues, and often about his own political future, as he publicly weighs the pros and cons of a possible run for president.

Reporter Katie Zuniga talked with Merkley and asked him why he was waiting to announce his decision to run for the presidency while others have already announced. He said he wants to really wrestle with how he can most effectively use his time and energy.

We also asked him about the president’s statement that he may use his “state of emergency” power to build the border wall, if no agreement is reached on funding with Congress.

“It’s an extraordinary statement by a president, because we are not at a point where we have an extraordinarily large flow of people coming to our border.” Merkley said. “It’s much lower now that it was in the year 2000.”

NewsChannel 21 also attended the meetings in Madras and Bend, where the senator talked about what he calls three “mega issues”: The state of corruption of our “we the people” constitutional system of government; investing in foundations that help families with housing affordability, health care and education; carbon pollution and climate “chaos.”

The audiences asked about health care, education funding and the current partial government shutdown.

After both meetings we asked a few people what they thought of what Merkley said.

“The way they explained things, I like how it wasn’t so one-sided. It was a bipartisan type of deal. And that’s what I want to hear. ”

“I think it’s so important that we have two senators who make it a (priority) every single year to go visit every county in their state.”

“I appreciated Senator Merkley coming out today and having a town hall meeting to address the issues he’s championing, which I agree 95 percent of what he said today.”

“We love his platform and we would love for him to keep being our senator.”

There was a question at the Madras meeting from a young attendee who Merkley said was the youngest to ask a question in all of his more than 300 town hall meetings.

The 8-year-old boy, Jacob Hurd, asked how the senator could help with education funding. “I want my friends to get good grades and go to college and my teachers get money for teaching, good money,” he said later.

The second-grader said he was happy with the answer the senator gave him, although his mom had to explain it a little bit for him to understand.

The final town hall of the day was Friday at night Crook County High School in Prineville.

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