This was no political pep rally.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., had to answer some tough questions on Thursday as he hosted a 90-minute town hall meeting at the Tucumcari Convention Center.
Questions ranged from health care to federal bailouts, and some were even personal, as about 100 Quay County residents sought explanations for recent government actions and proposals.
“The real purpose of the town hall meetings is to try to educate the people,” said Udall, whose stop in Tucumcari was one of a series he’s made around the state since Aug. 25.
Udall told residents a lot of “misinformation” has been relayed to Americans in recent months and his mission was to pass on “the very best facts.”
Some of the questions, and Udall’s response:
• Sharron Fitzner of Tucumcari: “How do you intend to educate and inform the public about the bills and spending going on in Washington?”
Udall: “I came here to hear you and your comments and what you are interested in. That is the purpose of this town hall meeting, to help educate and inform the public. I have information posted on my Web site and links to other Web sites with information for the public. There is nothing more important to our society than an informed citizen.”
• Barbara Cherry of Tucumcari: “Why are you and President Obama not reading these bills that are passing with pork-barrel spending in them?”
Udall: “I do not vote for a bill unless I know what is in it.”
Cherry also wanted to know if Udall was receiving Social Security benefits and how much he paid for medical insurance.
“I don’t get Social Security,” Udall said. “I am on Blue Cross Blue Shield and pay $360 a month.”
Udall also told the crowd that private companies receiving federal bailouts and then giving executive bonuses, “should not be doing that. I am supporting legislation to get that money back.”
Udall said the country is having problems, but is getting stronger.
“I think we faced a big (economic) crisis,” he said. “We are working on projects that need to be part of the solution. At one point we were neglecting our infrastructure. I think we are moving in the right direction.”
Audience members were invited to write their questions on a piece of paper at the beginning of the meeting. The questions were then drawn at random by audience members. Those whose questions were selected read them to Udall.
The senator answered 16 questions.
He’s also held recent town hall meetings in Ruidoso, Raton and Clayton. Thursday was his last day on an eight-county tour of New Mexico during the Congressional recess.