Mar 26, 2010

3rd Congressional District Candidates Face Off

Written by Roberta Biros

Energy levels were high as the crowd squeezed into the Schict Auditorium at Grove City College on Thursday night. The event was a candidate debate hosted by the Grove City College Republicans. The forum made it possible for concerned citizens to compare the six Republican candidates that are vying for the 3rd Congressional seat against Congresswoman Dahlkemper in 2010.

At the start of the presentation the room was cramped. Co-moderator, Michael Coulter, announced that additional seating for the event was available in pour-over rooms that had a live feed of the event. The high attendance was a testament to the fact that this is a VERY IMPORTANT election. Interest is high and that is always a good thing. The stage was set for a heated debate.

The format of the debate was simple. There were a few questions from the moderators that were directed to all candidates. Additionally, each candidate was given the opportunity to direct a question to another in the group. The decision of who would question whom was decided by a draw from a hat.

In the end, the forum allowed each candidate to enjoy a high point or two . . . some experienced more high points than others. Below is a quick breakdown of those highlights (and maybe a “low light” or two). My analysis would be incomplete if I didn’t also provide my opinions, which are scattered in for flavor.

The Candidates

Seated from left to right on the stage were Dr. Marta Moore, Steve Fisher, Paul Huber, Ed Franz, Mike Kelly, and Clayton Grabb.

Opening Remarks and Sound Bites

Each candidate was given the opportunity to introduce themselves. Below are some of the interesting sound bites from each.

Dr. Martha Moore:

“Why do I want to run for congress? Three words . . . enough is enough.”

Steve Fisher:

“People in Washington are not paying attention to what the citizens want. The difference is in listening to what is being said.”

“I’ll be as visible for you in Washington as I am in this district during this campaign.”

Paul Huber:

**While I have no specific sound bite for Mr. Huber, he overviewed his numerous qualifications and outlined his business background. **

Ed Franz:

“I think that Washington has been tone deaf to the 3rd District and the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
“Kathy Dahlkemper and the rest of the Democrats including Barack Obama aren’t concentrating on putting Americans back to work.”

Mike Kelly:

“I know what it takes to run a business. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people that run the Country knew how to run a business?”

Clayton Grabb:

“We The People”. Three simple words. Three powerful words. Three words that are divinely inspired.”

“They (in Washington) are our servants. They are no different than you or I. That is why I’m running.”

Highlights (or lowlights) for each Candidate:

Based on everything that was said throughout the evening, I’ve selected a few interesting remarks that summarizes the performance of each candidate.

Dr. Martha Moore:

The first question to all candidates asked when they would be willing to compromise on issues. Dr. Moore (who seems to have a quote for everything) referred to the quote “In issues of style, go with the stream . . . in issues of principle stand like a rock”. That was a pretty cool response.

Another highlight from Dr. Moore was not in her responses but in the question that she offered Paul Huber. Dr. Moore finally asked the question that everyone has been tip-toeing around. She asked “You started as a Democrat but now you sound like a Reagan Republican. Are you going to get to Washington and turn into a Democrat again?” It was a great question and it needed to be asked. Unfortunately, the response ended up being one of Paul Huber’s highlights (see below).

Steve Fisher

One of the highlights of the evening for Steve Fisher was his response to a question regarding what government program he would reduce and/or eliminate. Unlike some of the candidates, Steve Fisher made the bold statement that he would “reduce Welfare”. Bravo! Mr. Fisher, however, refused to commit to one program that he would eliminate. Like most of the candidates, he explained the he would need to look at all of the programs in more detail before he could make a determination like that.

Another highlight for Steve Fisher was in his question from Mike Kelly. In may have been a softball question on Kelly’s part, but he asked what suggestions Fisher could make to fix the Health Care problem from the private level. Fisher is an insurance professional and handled the question expertly. He has a firm grasp of the Health Care issue, and the question from Kelly gave him an opportunity to show that off.

A final highlight from Fisher came in his closing remarks. The question (to all candidates) was “Why do you feel that you are the most electable candidate over Dahlkemper?” Fisher’s response was “I think Kathy Dahlkemper is vulnerable.” He explained that he is drastically different from Mrs. Dahlkemper because, in his words, “I’m going to listen to what the people are looking for.” Fisher’s response stated the obvious . . . Kathy Dahlkemper ISN’T listening. Fisher positioned himself as the candidate that will do the people’s business.

Paul Huber

One highlight for Paul Huber was his suggestion of what Federal programs should be reduced or eliminated. He agreed with Steve Fisher’s choice (welfare). Mr. Huber also picked out the program of Agricultural Subsidies. Many of you may know that this is an area of specific interest to me. I’ve written about Farm Subsidies in the past, and I’m against them. While he didn’t take the opportunity to discuss the matter on Thursday night, he did describe his concerns in more detail last Sunday. At that time he explained that he was raised on a farm and still farms to this day. He explained that in all that time “he has never accepted subsidies”. This pushes on a point that I’ve debated for quite sometime. It is often the case that subsidies don’t actually go to people that need them. Instead, they simply go to people that know how to use the system. I found this interesting and I like his stand on it.

The second highlight for Mr. Huber came in his response to a question from Dr. Moore. As stated above, Dr. Moore questioned Huber’s recent change to the Republican Party. I find this issue of particular interest because I’ve seen a similar argument in my own political background. Paul Huber had a wonderful response that struck a chord with me. He stated “labels belong on jars . . . not on people”. I thought that was particularly well said. Mr. Huber then went on to explain his conservative beliefs and background.

A lowlight moment for Mr. Huber was in his question to Ed Franz. Mr. Huber’s question was “What would you do regarding tax policy, regulatory policies, and employment policy that would help manufacturers get people back work?” It is my opinion that Mr. Huber comes off as an intellectual elitist. His question was asked in such a way that it seemed as though he was intending to belittle Ed Franz in some way. Ed Franz’s initial response was one of his highlights (see below).

Ed Franz

As mentioned above, the question from Paul Huber to Ed Franz came off in a bad way. After Huber asked his question, Ed Franz simply paused and said “well, thanks for that question Paul”. There was a hint of sarcasm in his voice and it was noticed by all attendees. The response received chuckles across the room. It was a very funny and light-hearted moment.

Another highlight in the evening for Franz was his response to a question regarding how he would “compromise” in Washington. Ed Franz went in a perfect direction when he stated “The death tax needs repealed. A compromise is to lower it. As long as the compromise helps, I’m okay with it. Where I won’t compromise is in deficit spending.” This simple statement managed to position Franz as a fiscal conservative. In my opinion, Franz needs to concentrate on this issue in order to pull himself away from the pack as a focused fiscal conservative.

The final highlight from Ed Franz came from his response regarding his electability against Kathy Dahlkemper. Franz made the bold move to state “(Kathy Dahlkemper) ran on the issue of Pro-Life. 14 months later she proved that she is not a friend of the unborn . . . she voted for a bill that will pay for tax funded abortion. We can’t afford to send fakes to Washington.” Wow. Those sound like fighin’ words to me. He took a bold stand, and I applaud him for his direct attack at the Congresswoman. It was refreshing.

Mike Kelly

A highlight for Mike Kelly came in his response to a question from Steve Fisher. The question was regarding the GM bailout. Fisher asked Kelly, a GM Dealer, how he would have voted on the government bailout. Kelly said “If you can’t make it on your own, how do you expect to make it on someone’s back?” He went on to say “I would have voted No. Your tax dollars should not have gone to keep a company alive that couldn’t make it on their own.” Those have been my thoughts regarding the bailouts, and it was nice to hear them clearly stated by one of the candidates. Mike gets extra credit for that one.

Kelly’s final highlight was, unfortunately, also a lowlight for him. During the closing question regarding his electability against Dahlkemper, Kelly started by explaining that “we’ve all had it with politicians”. He continued with “don’t blame the government. . . blame the people that we have sent to Washington” and he used great sound bites like “Say what you mean and mean what you say”. Unfortunately, as he was presenting his worthy sentiments, his voice was rising and he took on a very mean and angry tone. I realize that this might be part of Mike Kelly’s “schtick”, but he left me (and others in the room) with a sense that he is just a very angry man. In my opinion, it was an unfortunate ending to his performance. In an argument about why he is the best person to defeat Dahlkemper in November he managed to demonstrate why he may not fair well against her when it comes time to take her on face-to-face.

Clayton Grabb

Clayton Grabb had numerous highlights throughout the evening. Mr. Grabb seems very sincere and he genuinely speaks from his heart. While he may not be the most polished “politician” of the group, that is exactly what makes him appeal to the “anti-government/anti-incumbent” crowd.

One specific highlight from the evening was Grabb’s response to the question about which Federal programs should be eliminated or reduced. Grabb is the ONLY candidate that provided an example of a program that he would eliminate. Grabb stated “Eliminate the Department of Energy. We need energy independence and that department is not getting it done.” In a question that was ducked by many, Grabb stood out with his bold comment. Grabb also commented that there should be a “freeze on all government hiring”. I say “Amen” to that.

A second highlight came for Grabb in his use of humor. When discussing ways to improve health care, Grabb made the reference “You can’t have a night watching TV without seeing a caveman or a gecko.” This was an obvious reference to the fact that insurance companies have plenty of money for advertising. As a follow up he stated “Open up the markets and let there be competition”. His use of a bit of humor was a great way to bring attention on the issue. It was a light-hearted moment.

The most memorable highlight for Clayton Grabb was in his closing statements regarding his electability against Dahlkemper. Realize, first, that his comments followed those of Mike Kelly, which were very angry and loud. After a brief silence Grabb first stated “I know in my heart that I’m going to win the Primary in May and I feel confident that I’m going to beat Kathy Dahlkemper in November.” Clayton Grabb has the ability to inject emotion in his words, and it is moving. He then went on to make a statement referencing his military background and the explanation of what occurs when there is a “breach in the wall”. He used the same words last night as he did at a similar forum last Sunday, but it is a REALLY GOOD speech. I won’t even attempt to quote it here as it simply wouldn’t do it justice. Let me simply say that if you haven’t heard Clayton Grabb speak you should make it a point to make it to one of his upcoming functions.

In Closing . . .

Those were the notable highlights and lowlights of the evening . . . from my perspective, of course. I’m sure that everyone in the room left with different impressions of the events of the evening, but that is what makes this Country so great. One thing that we can all agree on is that formal debates like this one are an important part of the political process. It was encouraging to see so much interest from the community. I can only hope that everyone went home more informed than when they arrived.

As always, just my opinion.
~Mercer Conservatives

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