Dean to face unfriendly audience at forum

Former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has been leading the liberal charge on healthcare, and next week he's likely to come face to face with the conservatives who have tripped up the Democrats' August campaign.
 
Dean is the featured speaker Tuesday night at Democratic Rep. Jim Moran's (Va.) healthcare town hall meeting in Reston. Moran spokesman Austin Durrer said the event has been highlighted on conservative blogs, a fact that has them gearing up for vocal opponents in the audience.
 
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"We're anticipating an organized effort to bring people out," Durer said.
 
But there won't be any guns. Firearms advocates have created a stir at some town halls by openly carrying handguns and even a semiautomatic rifle. But Moran's town hall will be at a high school auditorium and weapons are banned from school grounds.
 
The auditorium can hold about 2,700 people.
 
Town halls have been volatile venues for Democrats throughout August, with lawmakers being shouted down by conservative attendees who are infuriated by the Democrats' healthcare plans.
 
Dean has been dismissive of the town halls, saying the protests at town halls don't reflect the mood of the country on healthcare.
 
“The town halls are not about healthcare,” Dean said at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh earlier this month. “They’re about being angry.”
 
Dean has also become a thorn in the side of the Obama administration since it floated signals that it might be backing off a government-run insurance option to compete with the private sector. Dean emerged as a critical voice from the liberal wing of the party, saying that health legislation should not pass if it doesn't include such a public option.
 
And Dean told Huffington Post "there will be primaries" against Democrats who oppose a public option if it fails to pass.
 
Moran supports a public option, but hasn't gone as far as Dean.
 
"The congressman's position is that if we don't do a public option, it will be a missed opportunity and something we'll regret," Durrer said.
 
Dean was scheduled as a speaker before it was known that town halls would be so heavily attended.
 
"We were hoping to get a big name speaker to draw people to the event," Durrer said.
 
Attendance is being restricted to residents of Moran's Northern Virginia congressional district, which encompasses the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County including Reston and Tysons Corner. Attendees will be asked to sign in and give their address and email address. Those not from the district will be turned away from the auditorium.

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