Apr 27, 2010

3rd Congressional Candidates Debate the Issues Again: Who will be the one to send Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper packing?

Written by Roberta Biros

Last night I attended another formal debate of the 3rd Congressional District Republican Candidates. The event was sponsored by Allegheny College and was held at Quigley Hall on the Allegheny College Campus. It was another standing-room-only event as it was a rare opportunity for the people of the 3rd Congressional District to determine which candidate can best represent them when we send Kathy Dahlkemper home in November.

All six candidates were in attendance. In order on the stage from left to right were Steve Fisher, Ed Franz, Clayton Grabb, Paul Huber, Mike Kelly, and Martha Moore.

The last formal debate was held a month ago on March 25th in Grove City (read about it HERE). It may have only been 4 weeks ago, but it seems like a lifetime. The last four weeks have been packed with events, get-togethers, meet-n-greets, fundraisers, and tea parties for all six of the Republican candidates . . . and the bloggers that follow them. The grueling schedule is beginning to take its toll on everyone involved, but it hasn’t dampened our determination to push through to November.

At the debate that was held a month ago, we met six candidates that were fresh, unpolished, and unique. Four weeks later, the six candidates are beginning to meld into one and other. The have all had an opportunity to tweak their presentations, and some are actually stealing each others quotes (i.e, I believe it was Ed Franz that stole Martha Moore’s “enough is enough” quote last night and it made me laugh).

I documented the entire evening, but you all know that I’m not one to simply provide a laundry list of the evening’s events. No, I’d prefer to paint you an abstract portrait of the highlights and lowlights of the night.


Anyone that attended last night’s event would agree hands down that the “star” of the evening was Dr. Martha Moore. At the debate in Grove City, Dr. Moore was noticeably nervous and she struggled at times to find the words to properly describe her stand on issues. That was simply not the case last night as Dr. Moore has found a comfortable place in just shooting straight from the hip. “Like what?”, you ask. Allow me to provide a few sound bites:

When discussing why she was running for office, Dr. Moore stated “Because I don’t want to be nauseated every time that I hear the President of the United States speak.”

She made a reference to a patient that recently visited her office who has over $90K in outstanding medical bills. She stated “Call Kathy Dahlkemper (and ask her to pay your bill)”.

When referring to the recent health care reform bill she stated “that stupid bill they passed . . . just stupid”.

The most precious references that Dr. Moore made were during her closing statements where she literally brought down the house. For instance . . . “When I go to Washington, I’m going to say NO a lot. They are going to say that I’m from the party of no’, but I’m the party of ‘STOP THIS’”.
I applaud Martha Moore for offering us “Martha Moore Unplugged” last night. She brought a level of straight talk and humor to an otherwise serious and sometimes lifeless event. I’ve said it before and I’ll take this opportunity to say it again. I really respect Dr. Moore for standing up as a concerned citizen and becoming involved in this race. I still don’t believe that she is necessarily the best choice to become our next Congresswoman, but I appreciate the perspective that she brings to the table. She says the things that many of us are thinking . . . but we’ve never actually said out loud, and because she is a candidate she is able to inject those thoughts directly into the formal debate conversation.

Her participation in last night’s event was “priceless”.

Interesting Notes on Each Candidate

I’d like to point out some interesting statements from each of the candidates presented in the order of the seating arrangement on the stage from left to right.

Steve Fisher

Steve Fisher continues to illustrate that he is the perfect mix of grassroots candidate and qualified representative. He presents himself as a “Statesman” and not a politician. He is polished in all the right places, but he remains human (and appropriately ‘unpolished’) in the way that he connects with the people of this area. He is sincere, honest, and approachable but also projects an unmatched level of confidence and professionalism.

On issues of the budget, Mr. Fisher pointed out that we need to make decisions that are “good for us”. He pointed out that too much attention goes to how our budgetary decisions will affect China and Japan and that we need to concentrate on how those decisions will affect us first.” He suggested that we reestablish an impartial review of the federal government and possible inefficiencies through an investigation similar to the Grace Commission (that was established during the Reagan administration).

In response to issues of our military and his willingness to respond to a strike against the United States, Mr. Fisher first stated that he is concerned “about how thin our military is stretched” and whether they are receiving the support that they need. He also pointed out that we need to “forget political correctness”.

In his closing comments, Mr. Fisher made a great statement worth noting. He said “I am not a politician. I plan on serving a maximum of three terms and coming back to the area to work in the insurance industry . . . if there is an insurance industry to come back to”.

Ed Franz

Ed Franz positions himself as the man who can “represent the average taxpayer in Washington DC”. He pointed out that “inside the beltway politicians have concentrated on healthcare legislation and not the health of this nation”.

Mr. Franz made reference to the “800 lb gorilla in the back of the room”. Some may have thought he was referring to one blogger that was seated in the last row of the auditorium, but he was referring to “the national debt”. Mr. Franz wants to be the voice in the debate that represents the average taxpayer.

Regarding budget deficits, Mr. Franz made his stand clear when he stated “We need to get out of deficit spending. We need to get out of financing bills and legislation that we cannot afford.” It was a short statement, but it hit at the heart of the problem.

In a humorus moment of the evening, Mr. Franz was discussing his thoughts on the strength of the military and his stand on responding to a strike on the US. To quote “If we are attacked we should hunt them down.” He then went on to discuss a reference to a movie . . . “Patton”, and he stated “Wasn’t that the way a war should be fought.” The reference sent chuckles across the crowd.

Clayton Grabb

Clayton Grabb continues to prove that he is the anti-politician. His concerns are not for “the Party” but for “the People”. He started by explaining why he decided to run for office. He stated “I believe our constitution is under attack”. He then went on to explain “I got tired of holding my nose to go and vote in the past. My Republican Party has left us down before. We need someone that will go to DC and stand up for the people and tell it like it is.” It is statements like these that explain why Mr. Grabb is not embraced by the Republican Party, but is, instead, embraced by people who have experienced the same frustrations . . . which are many.

He continued to separate him self from politicians by saying “(we need to elect people to) do the people’s work and then go home . . . we need a citizen legislator that does not want to be there.” (emphasizing that once they get there they get too comfortable)

When it comes to budgetary issues, Mr. Grabb offers common sense solutions to that too. He stated “How about we cut all government hiring. The government is the only sector of our economy that is growing right now. . . . we cannot continue to grow our government . . . the more (people) that depend on government the harder it will be for people like us to get in there and stop it.”

Regarding issues of the military, Mr. Grabb stated “We need to pull the politicians out (of the decision making process) and let the military do what it needs to do. We need to do what is necessary to be the biggest baddest dog on the block.”

Paul Huber

Paul Huber remains firm on his position as the businessman with the experience needed to represent us in Washington DC. In his opening statement his first words were “I’m a life long social and fiscal conservative”. I mention this because it raised a few eyebrows in the crowd as some people have questioned the fact that Mr. Huber only became a Republican last year.

Mr. Huber did, however, manage to present a very conservative stand on fiscal issues including his statement on budgetary issues as “I’m proposing that we go to 2009 levels of spending and that includes legislative salaries as well. It is a step in the right direction that sends the right message to the financial markets and the American people that we are serious about this.” Mr. Huber’s ideas for tackling economic problems are aggressive and bold and I like that.

Regarding job creation in our area, Mr. Huber offered a great explanation of the problem as “government doesn’t create jobs . . . they create an environment where jobs are destroyed or they can create an environment where free enterprise can create jobs”. Mr. Huber continues to offer the prospective of a business person, and he is quite clear on his vision of how that prospective is desperately needed in Washington DC.

Mike Kelly

Mike Kelly also offers the business owner angle, and he is quite direct in his approach. Unlike Huber (who is polished and refined), Mike Kelly offers similar ideas but with an extra “edge”. When explaining “why” he was running he simply stated “because none of us ran before.” He further explained that “We were all responsible people sitting back and didn’t have time to get involved . . . We forfeited our future . . . it is time to get people like ‘us’ into office.”

Regarding the issue of term limits, Mr. Kelly made his stand clear when he stated “people are sitting too long in the same spot and they aren’t held accountable.”

In response to a question regarding budget deficits and the President’s plan to freeze discretionary spending, Mr. Kelly boldly stated “I have a problem listening to anything that Obama says and taking it seriously.” Again in referencing the President he said “We’ve got a 3 yr old running the highest powered locomotive on earth.”

Mr. Kelly’s most important point of the evening was his repeated reference to “it’s the spending, stupid”. He continues to press the common-sense idea that spending needs to be addressed before this nation can move forward on anything. I agree.

Mr. Kelly did attempt to address recent comments that he “comes across as angry”. He explained that people might get that impression because “he is angry”. He explained that he is angry about the problems that we are facing in this country and he is serious about fixing them.

As a side note . . . After the debate I did ask Mr. Kelly that the next time he wants to quote me directly I only ask that he give me a public shout out. This is, of course, a reference to the fact that my written statements regarding Mr. Kelly were the catalyst to the conversations about his “anger”. Mike and I laughed about it and I reassured him that “I think he is just a big teddy bear”.

Martha Moore

Aside from the comments that I’ve already made regarding Dr. Moore, there were other points that did not go unnoticed. Regarding finding solutions to fiscal issues, she stated “don’t look to the Government to fix problems that the Government created”. It isn’t just a great quote . . . it is the truth.

Regarding budgetary issues and a proposed freeze on discretionary spending, Dr. Moore stated “a miniscule part of the budget is what he is freezing . . . then he passes a bill that will cost 2.4 trillion dollars . . . they said 1.4 trillion but they lied.” She then went on to explain “We are going to have to tackle the big items.” As a possible solution, she suggested that “we need to audit the federal government”, and I completely agree.

One key difference between the candidates?

After almost two months of following these candidates from event to event I was surprised last night when an issue surfaced which drew a very definitive line of distinction between them. That issue was regarding campaign financing and specifically the Supreme Court ruling on “Citizens United v. FEC”.

The issue has multiple facets that generated great conversation. The first is an issue regarding the First Amendment and free speech, and the second issue is that of campaign financing and the idea of “deep pockets buying elections”.

All of the candidates were in agreement on the issue of free speech (no shock there), but there were additional comments made by some that highlighted a serious problem regarding political campaigns in general.

Mike Kelly felt that the ruling helped to “even the playing field”. He explained that “corporations shouldn’t be pouring this much money into elections, but when you look at how the Democrats raise money you need to level the playing field.”

In drastic contrast, Steve Fisher was clearly against the concept of corporations funding elections. He stated “We spend far too much on elections already. I don’t think that corporations should be allowed to spend money to buy votes and buy elections.” He further explained “there is big difference between dollars between many candidates, but to take corporate money and throw it in there is unfair”. As a grassroots candidate, Fisher has experienced first had how deep pockets and large bank accounts can make the election process a particularly uneven playing field.

Ed Franz agreed with the Supreme Court ruling but emphasized that “we need to watch what special interests are financing which candidates . . . the voters need to keep an eye (on the process)”.

Clayton Grabb also agreed with the Supreme Court ruling and supported his comments by saying that “corporations ARE you and I”. However, as another grassroots candidate, he was quick to point out that “Campaigns should not cost what they cost!” [I say “Amen” to that.] He further went on to explain exactly how “big money comes in and they buy the Primary”. In closing he reminded everyone that the “grassroots people are the ones that need to be represented”.

Paul Huber agreed with the Supreme Court ruling, and he seemed to have no problem with the concept of corporations funding elections.

This specific debate drew very clear lines for me. 2010 is an election year that offers very stark contrasts. It is a year that pits “deep pockets” against “grassroots Average Joe’s” (as in the race for the 3rd Congressional District). It is a year that battles “endorsed candidates” against “unendorsed candidates” (read an example HERE). It is a year that will put unaffiliated Independents up against 20-year entrenched incumbents (read an example HERE).

In summary, 2010 is the year of David vs. Goliath.

In the race for the 3rd Congressional District, David is represented by Steve Fisher, Ed Franz, Clayton Grabb, and Martha Moore. Goliath is represented by Paul Huber and Mike Kelly. The Primary on May 18th will settle the debate and the battle once and for all.

As always, just my opinion.
~Mercer County Conservatives


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