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Republican Rep. Steve Knight met with protesters and boos during raucous town hall in Palmdale

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Republican Rep. Steve Knight met with protesters and boos during raucous town hall in Palmdale

Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) walks past protesters as he leaves after holding a town hall meeting on Saturday in Palmdale. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) walks past protesters as he leaves after holding a town hall meeting on Saturday in Palmdale. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) got an earful from his constituents at an early morning town hall meeting in Palmdale on Saturday that drew an at-capacity crowd of nearly 300 with dozens more protesting outside.

Though Knight ultimately was escorted to his car by several Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as protesters booed him, the question-and-answer session remained relatively civil, if a bit raucous.

Knight drew a mixed reaction from the crowd. Local Democratic clubs from Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley were at the event, and many in the crowd sported pink caps and so-called " pussyhats " made popular during the Women's March earlier this year.

Some in the crowd carried signs supporting the Affordable Care Act, a popular topic during the meeting. Knight said parts of the act were working and praised California's healthcare marketplace, Covered California, calling it one of the better run exchanges in the nation.

He was jeered when he said that Obamacare's ban on lifetime spending caps on medical coverage could be done away with.

"Some lifetime caps might stay in place but most would not," he said to loud boos.

Knight, who represents a potential swing district and has been targeted by national Democrats, also tried to differentiate himself from President Trump's administration, with mixed results.

He earned his loudest cheers when he said that Trump should release his tax returns, something Democrats demanded during the election.

When asked about what intelligent agencies have said was Russian interference in the election, Knight again drew applause when he said that Trump's administration should not be involved in an FBI investigation.

But he was booed when he said he would look at transcripts of comments made by U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing — when Sessions said that he did not have communications with "the Russians" — so Knight could understand "in context" what Sessions said. Sessions came under fire from members of Congress last week after reports that he had failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Knight's office required the town hall attendees to show identification to prove they lived in his district, something that riled some Democrats.

Shari Freedman, a purchasing agent for a print manufacturer in Simi Valley, wore a piece of paper with her ZIP code around her neck in protest of the ID requirement. She was also upset the town hall was held at 8:30 a.m. in Palmdale, a 60 mile drive from where she lives.

"We are constituents, not paid protesters," she said.

Knight's district is almost evenly split between registered Democrats and Republicans, while about a fifth of voters list themselves as "no party preference." National Democrats have targeted Knight's seat as one they want to flip blue in 2018.

Outside the town hall, protesters chanted "last term" as Knight walked to his car.

Shawnee Badger, a 23-year-old actress from Valencia, was among those protesting.

"He is an extreme conservative," she said. "He doesn't represent our district's values."

Knight did bring out some supporters including Donna Basail of Agua Dulce. She said she appreciated that Knight came out and took questions from the crowd even if many were protesting.

"He is our representative, he needs to listen to the people regardless of what they say," she said.

Chris Culotta, 17, jumps up and and down to get the attention Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) during a town hall meeting in Palmdale. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles)
Chris Culotta, 17, jumps up and and down to get the attention Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) during a town hall meeting in Palmdale. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles)

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