JIM WELTE. Writer. Editor.

Protesters hound Sen. Boxer at book event

For U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, politics rarely takes a night off, even when she’s trying to tout her fledgling career as a novelist.

At a promotional appearance Wednesday night at Book Passage in Corte Madera for her second novel, “Blind Trust,” the former Marin County supervisor explained her passion for writing, the process she uses to pen her stories, and the similarities between the characters in her books and those she interacts with in the U.S. Capitol.

But there was no escaping the swarm of dozens of protesters outside waving signs, shouting and banging on the windows, hoping to get Boxer’s attention in the ongoing debate over healthcare reform. In explaining her protagonist’s attempts to defend herself amidst a scandal over a blind trust’s investments, Boxer said, “As someone who has been the target of these kinds of things in my lifetime …”

She was interrupted by a resounding chant of “Boo!” from outside the book store.

“That was perfect timing,” Boxer said. “I now understand how it all works and I am not afraid of them.”

Earlier, when a protester banged on the window as she was speaking, Boxer said, “It takes a certain type of person to be able to deal with this kind of thing.”

Karen West, director of events at Book Passage, said Boxer’s appearance was “certainly the one event with the most activity,” noting the last book event to draw protesters was a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Wednesday night’s protesters gathered on the sidewalk outside the Marketplace shopping center where Book Passage is located, and also outside the bookstore’s entrance. Attendees of the event were required to purchase the book to get a seat inside, leading to an exchange between Boxer and James Urquhart of Santa Rosa that drew a round of laughter.

“Your book is going in the trash as soon as I get home,” Urquhart said.

“Well, I’m glad you bought it,” she retorted.

While there were several people with signs supporting universal healthcare and a public insurance option, most of those gathered sported signs in opposition to Boxer and the various proposed healthcare reform bills making the rounds in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“We were certainly outnumbered,” said Adrianna Roome, a Novato resident and member of Organizing for America, the group set up by President Barack Obama to tap into his vast campaign network in an effort to push for legislation.

Rosemary Garvey of Novato said she was upset that Boxer was appearing in Marin to promote her book but was not hosting a public event to hear from residents about healthcare.

“She does represent us and we would like to be heard,” Garvey said. “We see something like this, where she’s appearing to sell her book and it’s despicable. We just want an audience.”

Some protesters reiterated the claim that healthcare reform would call for so-called “death panels,” while others said they feared government takeover of the healthcare system.

“We’re very concerned about healthcare being rationed or getting stuck with the bill for health insurance for immigrants,” said Tim Petersen of San Anselmo.

Inside the event, Boxer focused primarily on her book, saying she found the perfect writing companion in co-author Mary-Rose Hayes, a British novelist. Hayes helped her cut in half the time it took to write “Blind Trust” compared with her debut novel, 2005’s “A Time to Run.”

“She taught me how to flash back and flash forward in telling the story,” Boxer said. “It’s set up like you would set up a movie.”

“Blind Trust” features Sen. Ellen Fischer, a liberal Democrat from California who fights back against right wing ideologues and defends herself against a blind trust-related scandal.

All of the characters in the book were composites of people Boxer interacts with every day, she said. Fischer, she said, “is my ideal. She’s the way I want to be when I grow up.”

Boxer allotted time at the end of the event for a few questions not related to the book, and almost all of them centered on healthcare. She said she supported a public option to help rein in soaring healthcare costs and provide an alternative to health insurance companies. Boxer also defended herself against claims that she was not listening to her constituents.

“The fact is that I feel very close to the people of this state and they don’t have to yell at me or point at me, but I hear them,” she said.

Earlier in the evening, Boxer stopped by the Tavern at Lark Creek for what Supervisor Steve Kinsey called “a historic event.” The gathering included the five incumbent supervisors and seven of the eight living ex-supervisors, with the exception of former Supervisor John Kress.

“In light of the challenges we have had, with the national economy, the state’s economic collapse, global warming, we felt it was appropriate to thank our predecessors for putting us on strong footing to deal with these this adversity,” Kinsey said.

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August 12, 2009 Marin IJ, News