Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter has the right to speak her mind, four Republican leaders said at Monday night’s town hall meeting in Turlock. And they all plan to be elsewhere when she visits the area April 28.
The Coulter question came up during the annual Government Night at the Larsa Banquet Hall. It featured Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock, state Assemblyman Heath Flora, County Supervisor Vito Chiesa and Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth.
Alejandro Carrillo of Oakdale asked the question about Coulter. He cited her criticism of immigrants, Catholics and other targets and asked the four leaders what they thought of her speaking to local Republicans at Modesto Center Plaza. The highlights:
▪ Denham expects to be voting on Congressional matters in Washington, D.C. on the 28th. He said he believes in free speech “even when it is somebody that I disagree with … Freedom of speech, I think, is good for our country, and it’s something that I fought for as a veteran of 16 years.”
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▪ Flora will be at a Lathrop event for fellow firefighters on the night Coulter speaks. “Our veterans fought for the right to free speech, even if it’s the most divisive speech we can talk about,” he said “... As much as I may not agree with her, she has the right.”
▪ Chiesa, who like Soiseth holds a nonpartisan office, heard from critics of the Coulter visit at a March 15 county board meeting. He said Monday that he is helping a friend move on the 28th but supports the right of anyone to speak. “She’s not my favorite person, for sure ... There’s a fine line between what people perceive as hate speech versus free speech.”
▪ Soiseth will spend that evening as a judge at an “Iron Chef” event raising money for the Turlock Education Foundation. He noted that he attended last year’s rally in Modesto for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton from the left.
“I wouldn’t have voted for him, but he’s someone I wanted to go listen to,” Soiseth said. “I wanted to take the time to hear what his opinions were, what his philosophies were, what he’s going to talk about.”
John Holland: 209-578-2385