PARKERSBURG — Waterloo’s Miriam Tyson admitted her bias. She’s an active Democrat.
But Tyson, a longtime Waterloo labor leader and one-time congressional primary candidate, also offered strong praise for U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley’s years of service to Iowa during a town hall Friday morning at Parkersburg Civic Center.
“You really do your job,” Tyson said, to a scattering of applause and one vocal supporter who cheered “Amen Grassley. Yes Grassley.”
But Tyson wasn’t finished.
She said Grassley marked a turning point when he held up former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for a year ahead of the 2016 election. She wants a return of the Grassley she was accustomed to.
“I’m asking you to be that role model that we look to, ... that we have respected for years. I want you to push back” on Republican President Donald Trump, Tyson concluded to rousing applause from the more than 250 people in the crowd.
“Ms. Tyson, thank you for your thoughtful comments,” Grassley said. He then ended the meeting on time after a raucous hour of questions and comments. He occasionally had to quiet the crowd so he could hear or talk.
Waterloo immigration attorney Miryam Antunez de Mayolo said Grassley had helped many of her clients over the years. She asked, what had changed?
Grassley said he hasn’t read Trump’s recent executive orders stepping up deportations of people here illegally. Antunez de Mayolo asked why Grassley doesn’t support comprehensive reform.
“I think you should do the most ‘Iowa’ thing, which is to do what is right,” she said.
John Mullen of La Porte City said he thought Grassley was someone with “high moral and ethical standards.” He wants Grassley to speak out on Trump’s more objectionable comments — like insulting a physically handicapped person, a prisoner of war and a Gold Star family and admitting to groping women without their permission. Mullen’s brother, Michael Mullen, was killed by friendly fire in Vietnam in 1970, and his story was made into a book and television movie.
Grassley moved on without answering. While he answered many questions, he took some as rhetorical and didn’t address them.
Grassley disputed he has changed.
“I presume most of this audiences come from the 36 percent of people that voted for my opponent, and so you might expect that from them,” he told the media after the event. “The bottom line of it is Chuck Grassley hasn’t changed.”
The crowd mostly voiced concerns about pending Republican actions. Several made a point of saying they were not paid protesters, particularly after Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson opened by asking attendees to be civil “whether paid to be here or not.” The crowd responded with boos and jeers.
Grassley compared the town halls of the past week to meetings in 2009 when conservative tea party groups flooded public meetings to raise concerns about the health care reform debate. He said then he was more likely to get praise from Democrats and concerns from Republicans.
He said last week’s meetings were less raucous than 2009 or 2015, after Republicans refused to hold a hearing on Obama’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
“These are relatively quiet town meetings,” Grassley said Friday.