- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

FLANDERS, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Republican Rep. Leonard Lance faced skeptical and boisterous voters Wednesday night who said they would be voting him out of office when he held his first town hall since the GOP effort to replace the Affordable Care Act failed.

Lance met with hundreds of constituents in his northern New Jersey district at Mount Olive High School in Flanders. It was his third town hall since Republican President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January.

The event came while lawmakers are on their Easter and Passover recess, with Trump’s approval ratings flagging and after the president’ health care legislation fell apart last month - thanks in part to Republicans like Lance who said they opposed it.

Unlike the previous events where protesters carried signs and held makeshift rallies outside the event, Wednesday’s town hall had fewer people and placards, though police blocked people from taking them inside the auditorium.

Lance, who was first elected in 2008, was booed loudly when he said he supported blocking federal funding for abortion. He was also booed after he told voters President Barack Obama should have tried to work with Congress more on regulations, which led to an outburst from the audience that got Lance’s attention.

“We’re voting you out next year,” one person said.

Lance responded saying that the 2018 election would “take care of itself.”

“To the catcall, I think 2017 should be a year of government, not politics,” Lance said.

Virginia Gollin, 74, called Trump “incompetent” and said his inauguration motivated her to attend the town hall and Lance’s earlier event. She lives in Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen’s district north of Lance’s but Frelinghuysen has not held town halls.

“It’s valuable for us to hear from congressmen and for the congressmen to hear from us,” she said.

Rick dePinho, 50, said he had been a Republican for 15 years but became a Democrat because of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. He says he voted for Lance in the past but is not sure about supporting him again and that Trump’s administration has spurred him to run for local office in his hometown of Warren.

Lance said after the town hall that all his events since Trump’s inauguration have been “vigorous,” and that he learned voters are passionate in particular about preserving the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, like the requirement for insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.

Lance has continued to hold the meetings while other New Jersey Republicans like Frelinghuysen and Rep. Chris Smith have avoided holding them.

“I try to lead by example and my example has always been to hold town hall meetings,” he said when asked what he would report to his GOP colleagues.

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