Debates, Truths and Mail

I was really impressed by the large crowd that showed up for the NAACP debate Wednesday night. It was a good exchange among the candidates that I think highlighted a lot of differences, and surprisingly a lot of similarities.

First, I want to thank the NAACP for putting together such a wonderful event, and Diane Lasko from WHJB did a great job as moderator. I guess I should apologize too for all of us having trouble staying within the allotted timeframes to speak. (There were a lot of red cards).

Now, I am not one of those candidates who will immediately boast that I “won” the debate the minute it ends. I think all five of us got across the points we wanted to make and focused on our professional records and plans for office. I want, too, to offer some kudos to Independent candidate Dr. Ron Gazze for a refreshing approach to all this. He worked hard to get on the ballot (no easy task, by the way) and he is helping to contribute to the important dialogue among all of us.

It was nice to hear Chuck Anderson and Tyler Courtney again offer praise for all of the good things going on in Westmoreland County. They’ve done that in all of the forums we’ve attended thus far. Throughout this campaign they have praised our industrial parks and economic development efforts, community college, human services programs, recreation parks and more. I am glad they appreciate the work we’ve done in these areas to make our county such a great place.

Jerry Lucia really demonstrated his knowledge and record of how to get things done and how to work together. I say it all the time – he is absolutely the right man to serve with me as commissioner.

There were, of course, stark differences. Our opponents continue to speak in generalities and campaign-speak. If you’re going to say you’re going to run things “sharper, smoother and less expensive” (actual quote), you owe all of us an explanation as to how you’ll do it. Without any detail, it’s just another slogan.
I did ask pointed questions to my opponents – questions about Mr. Courtney’s business experience and court documents that tell a much different story than the one he is telling, as well as questions about Mr. Anderson’s expense reports to county taxpayers. They were never answered, so we’ll keep asking. These are legitimate campaign issues about our professional records.

I have to laugh, too, about being called a “career politician” (another actual quote). I’m 38-years-old and have been in office for 17 months!

In all, I commend our opponents – and certainly Jerry Lucia – for an informative and enlightening evening.
We are well into political mail season, and with a little more than a week to go I know there will be a lot more. So as I wait for the postal carrier today, I want to reflect on some of the stuff I’ve received so far.

Despite the imagery, silly comparisons and scary words, I am not Barack Obama (though I’ve received so much mail of me and him, I keep looking over my shoulder to see if he is standing behind me). I have seen the same polls my opponents have, and know that President Obama is not particularly popular here. It’s one of the oldest political tricks in the books, trying to tie someone to an unpopular politician. But the analogies are really a stretch. I have learned to laugh off this silly stuff

Perhaps I’ll do a piece of Richard Nixon and Chuck Anderson, or of Tyler Courtney and Calvin Coolidge. Ridiculous, right?

But let me add one last time here – the Courthouse has absolutely nothing to do with the White House.

So who’s paying for all this mail? Harrisburg Republicans have poured a lot of money into this race – tens of thousands of dollars, and no doubt more is coming. We knew they were going to. Look at the return labels on all these hit pieces – paid for by State Republican Committee. So the same people who have turned our state capital into a place of pettiness, partisanship, bickering, corruption and lobbyists now want to buy our local elections. No thanks.

I fully expect more hit pieces to come out against me, and I imagine the allegations will only get more ridiculous and meaner. I will continue to campaign on the hard work and sincerity that I have tried to bring to this job and the good work that is going on in your county government – both programmatically and fiscally.

My disputes with my opponents have always been about their professional records, and the issues have been supported by court documents, a judge’s direct quotes and county public records. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Courtney are both good men – with wives, children and families – whom I knew well before this campaign and hope to continue a positive relationship with afterwards. Political campaigns can be a tough business for sure – and I admit I have asked tough questions of my opponents – but I will not let this degenerate into personal attacks that only hurt people and turn off voters. I will continue to focus only on our professional records and experience.

As we enter the last week before Election Day, I want to thank you all for your trust in me.