The New York Times on Sunday highlighted the challenge facing U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)
"Mr. Walden, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is not just another backbench Republican dealing with suddenly energized supporters of the health law at town hall-style meetings," Times reporter Robert Pear wrote. "The lanky 60-year-old congressman will have a large role in drafting promised legislation to replace former President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement and a huge say in decisions about the future of Medicaid, which the health law greatly expanded."
Oregon has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Medicaid expansion that is a key part of the Affordable Care Act. More than 400,000 Oregonians who previously lacked health insurance are now insured, thanks to the ACA and almost one-quarter of Oregonians are now covered by the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program for people who cannot afford health insurance.
As the Times notes, many of Walden's constituents live in rural Oregon, where jobs are scarce. In some of the counties in his district, a third of residents receive Medicaid. That means they will be particularly sensitive to the repeal of Obamacare, which President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans have promised.
The Times notes that Walden's district, which extends from the state's southwestern tip to its northeast corner and covers an area about the size of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined, is drifting leftward, at least in areas such as Hood River, Walden's hometown, and Bend, the district's biggest city.
Since the November election, Congressional town hall meetings in Oregon, often sleepy affairs, have become raucous events. Walden's taken some heat because he hasn't held a town hall in Bend since 2013. Over the weekend, the Bend Bulletin took a look at concerns that Walden is ducking constituents and found he'd been available in plenty of forums all over his district.
"To argue Walden is in hiding or has been afraid to face his constituents is not true," the Bulletin wrote. "If anything, it's an alternative fact."