In the auditorium of his old middle school just blocks from where he still lives, the congressman who is a lead author of the stalled House Republican health care bill was treated like the villain in a class play.
It didn't matter that Rep. Greg Walden was on a first-name basis with many of the roughly 800 attendees. Or that even Democrats such as Gov. Kate Brown call him congenial and bright. Or that Walden was just re-elected to a 10th House term with 72 percent of the vote in a safely Republican district in eastern Oregon. Or that he is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Walden, 60, ran into the same angry buzz saw at town meetings last week that has greeted his Republican colleagues at similar sessions and prompted others to not even bother holding the get-togethers. President Donald Trump and his party's policies on health care, immigration, the environment, the arts and Syria have whipped up Democratic voters and liberal organizers while dividing Republicans as well, and they're letting GOP lawmakers know it.
"Connie, I tried to answer you," Walden, standing alone on stage in a blue blazer and plaid shirt, pleaded to Connie Burton over resounding boos. Her children played with Walden's when they were little, but the 63-year-old Burton was now demanding that the lawmaker oppose Trump's voiding of rules blocking harmful emissions.
"Yes or no," the audience yelled when Walden answered indirectly.
Chosen to ask a question, one man in the balcony said, "You seem a like a pro-war politician. Have you encouraged your son to join the Marines?" A woman said, "We are absolutely disgusted that you led a committee to take away" peoples' health care, before loud cheers drowned her out.
"I care about health care. I know you don't think that," an exasperated Walden said at one point.
Walden's reception was far friendlier in more GOP-leaning and more rural Prineville, set among grazing land over 100 miles to the south. There were far fewer interruptions, though from the bleachers of the Crook County High School gym, 72-year-old Republican Steve Johnson yelled that Walden should "quit dancing around down there" and produce results in Congress.
But in Hood River, which despite its name is on the banks of the majestic Columbia River, and in Bend, the district's liberal hub at the foot of the Cascades, huge crowds pressed Walden in two-hour encounters heavy on boisterous interruptions and catcalls.
"People are fired up, and I know that and I respect that," Walden said later in an interview. He said that as the sole Republican in Oregon's congressional delegation, "I am the place they can come and vent."