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By KELLY HANNON
Former Virginia Gov. George Allen fielded every question lobbed at him yesterday during a town hall meeting in Fredericksburg with conservative activists.
But he gave his shortest answer when asked about his political future.
"When are we going to get the opportunity to campaign and vote for you again?" a man asked.
"Who's here from the media?" Allen responded, smiling.
A Free Lance-Star reporter responded.
"Stay tuned," Allen said.
In an interview after the event, Allen expanded on that answer only slightly when asked whether he will run for his old Senate seat in 2012.
"There are many people encouraging Susan and me to get into it, and we see what's happening in Washington," Allen said, referencing his wife. "Every vote does count, and as far as what I may do in the future, stay tuned."
Democrat Jim Webb narrowly defeated Allen in 2006 in Allen's bid for re-election to the Senate seat he won in 2000. Webb has not said whether he will run for re-election next year.
Fredericksburg was the first of four stops for Allen yesterday, including one scheduled in Louisa. Americans for Prosperity, which advocates repealing federal health care legislation passed in 2010, organized the appearances.
Close to 40 people attended the meeting in a conference room at Hospitality House in Central Park. The audience wasted no time jumping in.
Allen had barely gotten out his introduction when a man sitting in the front row interrupted with a question about voting rules in the Senate. Allen was unfazed.
"This is a town-hall meeting with no structure, go ahead," Allen said.
Allen encouraged attendees to press legislators for accountability on any vote to repeal health care legislation in Congress.
"You may not get a direct vote on it, but you need to make sure they take a stand," he said.
Allen said he opposes the mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance but warned the crowd that criticism alone wasn't enough. The son of the late Washington Redskins coach George Allen used the passing exploits of the current Green Bay Packers quarterback to make his point.
"While we do want to play tenacious defense, I think it's also important to have an Aaron Rodgers game plan on offense, and there are some positive, constructive ideas I think we need to be advocating," Allen said.
One of them was expanding use of health care savings accounts. Allen said his family and staff use them for medical expenses.
"It's more affordable, it's portable, and you're not beholden to the government, you're not beholden to an employer," Allen said.
Asked for his response to a federal study released this week that estimates 50 million to 129 million adults in America under age 65 have pre-existing medical conditions, Allen said health care savings accounts are a good solution to providing medical coverage for this group.
The accounts would free workers from staying in jobs they don't like just to keep health care benefits, he added.
"If you're encouraging individuals to have their own policies from the very beginning with these health savings accounts, then they're covered and they can go from job to job," Allen said.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a statement yesterday, posing 10 questions for Allen and calling on him to "share where he stands on the key issues of the day."
Kelly Hannon: 540/374-5436