Hollidaysburg — The scene closely resembled a company picnic, with little kids lining up to get their faces painted as folks sat around in fold-out lawn chairs drinking fruit punch from plastic cups.
But the Gadsden flags lining the trees, cars with anti-Obama bumper stickers and a large Blair County Tea Party banner hanging from the side of a flatbed truck told a different story.
Sunday was the Blair County Tea Party’s Freedom Fest, and the mostly older crowd sat in a half-circle around the truck on which the speakers stood, rallying the crowd over issues like gas prices, the liberal Nancy Pelosi agenda and even cash for clunkers.
The crowd heard from five speakers that day before Smith took the stage, including Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania’s Executive Director Leo Knepper, both candidates for the 79th PA House District (Dem Richard Flarend and Republican John McGinnis) and the state’s Tea Party Patriots coordinator Diana Reimer.
The penultimate speaker, Phil Waite — a social studies teacher at Spring Cove High School — said he missed coaching his son’s All-Star little league game in order to be there, and asked the crowd what they were willing to give up in order to make sure the President didn’t win a second term.
“You need knowledge, passion and courage, because we’re gonna see more garbage thrown at us than at a Lady Gaga concert,” he said.
After Waite, and a brief musical interlude, it was Smith’s turn to take the stage. He wasted no time in throwing his competitor’s name out there, calling on voters to bring Sen. Bob Casey “back home to Pennsylvania so he can re-acquire Pennsylvania values.
Smith said regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, coupled with other state and federal regulations, made it impossible for him to carry his company in the future and he sold them, but that having lived the American Dream influenced him to run for office.
“I see that dream being diminished by this government and I will not stand by and just go into retirement without trying to make a difference and that’s why I am here today.”
Smith said he planned to go after Sen. Casey for his voting record on Obamacare, stimulus and voting to raise the debt ceiling. He said that Casey and the Democrats don’t want to see the Keystone XL Pipeline built, despite the fact that a majority of people want it, and that he will see it done.
Casey has voted in favor of the pipeline.
Smith also did not hesitate to connect himself with the Tea Party movement; he founded a local group in 2009, something Democrats intend to use against him for the general election.
PA Dems spokesman Mark Nicastre said Smith makes a habit of allying himself with extremists.
“Tom Smith is one of Pennsylvania’s leading Tea Partiers. He founded a Tea Party covering two counties in western Pennsylvania and he is a self-proclaimed ‘Tea Party guy,’ who is far to the right of mainstream Republicans.”
Nicastre said Sunday was only the most recent Tea Party appearance for Smith, and that the Senate candidate will continue to adhere to their policies.
“The Tea Party is embracing Tom Smith because he has embraced their policies for years. Smith has backed their push to end Medicare as we know it, which will raise costs for seniors. Smith also would privatize Social Security and eliminate the Department of Education — two policies backed by the Tea Party.”
Smith wrapped up his speech by reminding his audience what the Tea Party has already accomplished, and will accomplish this fall.
“In 2010, there was a grassroots movement that rose up, and that group was made up of predominantly God-fearing people,” he said. “Hardworking americans, tax-paying americans and, by-and-large, quiet americans, who finally stood up and said with one voice, ‘Enough is enough.’ In 2010, they voted big spenders out of the United states House of Representatives.”
Smith said this year they will vote big spenders out of the Senate and White House.