Attendees at the Joni Ernst Town Hall meeting hold signs at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, March 17, 2017. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish

CEDAR RAPIDS – The luck of the Irish held for anyone torn between attending the town hall meeting held by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst today and the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Speculation was rampant that Ernst timed the event, held at Coe College, to coincide with the popular parade to lessen the turnout. That didn’t appear to be the case, as Coe’s Sinclair Auditorium was full, with just over 800 people in the lower level and more spilling into the balcony.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) answers a question  at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Many in the crowd held signs opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the border wall championed by Donald Trump, and a number of other Republican Administration proposals.

Ernst (R-Iowa) went right into questions and while she received little support for her positions from the crowd – overwhelmingly met with boos and shouting for most of her answers – she spent a full hour taking questions from the audience.

Several questions regarding her opposition to the science behind climate change were answered by Ernst affirming her support of alternative energy. She answered questions about defunding Planned Parenthood by saying state and federal money that goes to the organization is “fungible” and frees up other money for abortions, despite the fact that no state or federal money is used for abortions.

Imam Hassan Selim of the Islamic Center in Cedar Rapids asks a question during the March 17 town hall at Coe College. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“I know those donors will continue to step up,” she said of Planned Parenthood supporters.

Ernst sidestepped several questions about health care and Trump’s budget proposal by saying she needed to study the measures and decide what’s best for Iowans. One of the rare occasions in which the audience applauded was when Ernst said she agreed that Trump should release his tax returns.

In answer to a question about her connection to the Koch Brothers funding of her campaign through Americans for Prosperity, Ernst said the information “is available online.”

The town hall ended just as the SAPADAPASO parade began in downtown Cedar Rapids. See photos from both events, below:

(photos © Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan)