Will Mr. Smith Go To Washington?
Tom Smith, who may be the next senator from Pennsylvania, addressed and impressed the crowd at the breakfast meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey this morning, June 25, at the Crowne Plaza on City Avenue.
Smith, an experienced businessman but a political neophyte, was the against-party-wishes winner of April's Republican Primary to take on unpopular incumbent Bob Casey Jr.
Smith's connection with the gathering was made when he told his life's story and what motivated him to run.
Smith grew up on a farm in Armstrong County which is still his home today. The Elderton High School Class of '65 graduate had to forego college to take care of it for his terminally ill father. After he married his high school sweetheart, Saundy, who had gone on to college to become a teacher, he worked the farm in the day and ran heavy machinery in a coal mine in the evenings.
He worked this way for 11 years noting he was a member in good standing with United Mine Workers of America for a bit of that time and that he was going to enjoy their reaction when he started collecting a partial pension from them.
He went into the coal business for himself in the early '80s. He described the difficulties he had in getting a loan and how he had to mortgage his home to get the capital to rent heavy equipment, which was by the month.
He succeeded and expanded and reached the point where his companies employed 130 people and annually took more than a million tons of coal from the ground.
He sold the companies in 2010.
He and Saundy have seven children, six of whom are daughters, one of whom is in the Army Reserve.
And the children are why he is running.
Smith said that the Democrat-controlled Senate with the full compliance of Casey Jr. has failed to pass a budget for three years.
"Can you imagine a family going for 1,000 days without a budget?" he said.
He said that the present spending projections will soon have America's deficit beyond its gross domestic product.
"I can't look young people in the eye knowing what my generation was responsible for," he said.
Smith said his business experience makes him well aware of why things are not working.
"I have seen first hand what government regulation can do to an industry," he said.
He noted that while his background is coal he has no objections to alternative energy, providing use of this energy does not impoverish the nation's citizens.
Smith took questions from the audience and answered all directly. He said the United States has an unbreakable bond with Israel and that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He spoke of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and while he would not take military force "off the table," it would be the "court of last resort".
He said he would work closely with Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum, who was in attendance, to develop foreign policy.
"He's going to become one of my best friends," he said.
Smith was harshly critical of Obamacare and said he plans to tie Casey's support to it every chance he gets even if it should be overturned by the Supreme Court.
He noted that he became well aware of the reasons for the expense of health care when providing it for his employees namely that it could only be purchased from a limited number of companies -- four in his case; that he could not shop for it across state lines; and that he could not tailor polices to the needs and desires of his workers such as by leaving off coverage for acupuncture.
He also said tort reform was desperately needed.
Smith said he was optimistic about the race noting that he was down just seven points against a known incumbent and that incumbent has not managed to get above a 50 percent approval rating.
He said the state Republican organization is strongly backing him despite his primary victory over the party choice.
Smith was introduced by Bill Wanger who also noted that Joe Rooney, candidate for the 14th Congressional District; Robert Mansfield, candidate for the 2nd Congressional District; and Charles Gehret, candidate for State Senate District 17 were in attendance.