What had started as a nice open house turned into a preview of a congressman's "listening tour" that started Tuesday night at Edison State College.
U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-19th District, welcomed supporters (and non-supporters) to an open house at his office on Nicholas Parkway in Cape Coral, where he was to have light conversation of the issues and snack food in the back.
Soon after it began, the open house gave way to a town hall meeting where residents asked him questions that ran the gamut from the budget to security to the Second Amendment.
One guest asked Radel when Republicans were going to go on the offensive against President Barack Obama, since they seem to be on their heels currently.
"We know he's a socialist. Why don't we start using those red-line words that will get people's attention?" said the guest.
"I don't think people should be going out and name-calling. The president had a point when he said we can't substitute name calling for debate," Radel answered. "The Republicans seem to have gotten coalesced with conservatives and said Let's go on offense. We have no-budget, no-pay on the table now."
And when the subject came to guns, Terrie Moran and Joan Schlereth argued the need for gun control and a ban on assault weapons, which drew some argument for those in attendance.
That and much more was discussed as Radel started his listening tour last night, which he expected to be no-holds-barred.
"I expect to hear a variety of issues from all sorts of people from all walks of life. I want Democrats and Republicans or not politically engaged to come," Radel said. "I want people to ask questions and share their thoughts. In the end I hope we can find common ground."
Mostly, the conversation was civil as Radel, whose visitors were mostly Republicans, talked about his first few weeks in Congress and what he hopes to accomplish in his first two years.
"It's been great, exciting and I love what I'm doing. I wouldn't be a good representative if I didn't love it," Radel said. "I'm optimistic to take on the challenges ahead of us."
But Radel admitted he and the Republicans can't do it without working with the other side.
"I'm the eternal optimist and I think we can find areas where Democrats will work with us to make sure Senate Democrats do their job," Radel said. "We want to make sure they are held to the fire to pass a budget and go on the offensive to make sure we're held accountable."
Radel said Congress is made up of people who try to sell their outside-the-box ideas, but the way to solve problems is through simple solutions.
"Every legislator is like an entrepreneur that may come up with legislation to solve any of the challenges we have. The reality is we have a really big problem and that's the budget," Radel said. "Almost 70 percent of our budget isn't talked about. Social Security, Medicare. We need to find common ground and we need to soon because spending is out of control."