Thanks to Dems, Senate Debate Heats Up

Philadelphia — The gloves finally came off in the U.S. Senate race. In a debate at the Union League in Philadelphia, several candidates took shots at several others – particularly Steve Welch at Tom Smith. Most of them can be traced to an unlikely source: the Pennsylvania Democratic party.

The campaign has thus far been a cordial affair with very little back-and-forth. That changed Wednesday night.

The event became more than a little heated after a question was asked about Tom Smith’s and Steve Welch’s respective pasts in the Democratic party.  Debate moderator Dom Giordano cited a PA Dems press release from earlier Wednesday that teased Tom Smith and Steve Welch for their past party registration.

Welch, an entrepreneur from Chester County, defended his switch to and from the Democratic party in 2005 and 2009, and repeatedly attacked Smith concerning his track record.

“I was a Democrat for three years,” Welch said. “I changed parties as a protest to the Republican party.”

Welch then turned his fire on Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County.

“[He] has a history of raising taxes,” Welch said. “[He has] run as a Democratic candidate in the 70s, 80s, and as late as 2010.”

Ironically, that charge and fliers circulated by Welch’s campaign during the debate trace directly to the Pa. Democratic party. PoliticsPA reported here about the substance of the criticism; Welch’s flier was almost identical to the Dems’ own research document.

Welch also put Smith on the spot to name who he had voted for in the 2010 primary, Joe Sestak or Arlen Specter. Smith said he didn’t know.

But Smith defended himself first responding to Welch’s partisan oriented attacks.

“It was true I was a Democrat,” Smith said. “But I was a conservative Democrat.”

Smith also talked about the importance of a candidate’s liberal-conservative stance, rather than their party label.

“I have supported conservative candidates in the past,” he said. “It didn’t matter if they were Democrats or Republicans.”

Smith went on to give a few examples of candidates to whom he’s made donations in the past.

Welch continued to hound Smith about his history of raising taxes.

“Is raising taxes a conservative principle?” Welch said.

Smith said no, at which point Giordano intervened and called for closing statements.

Smith also took a shot at Sam Rohrer of Berks County, after the former state Rep. suggested he was the true conservative in the race. Smith noted that he had contributed to Rohrer during his 2010 campaign for Governor.

“I’m glad you thought enough of me before I became a Republican to cash my check,” Smith said. He also brought up Rohrer’s vote in favor of the 2005 legislative pay raise.

David Christian, a businessman and veterans advocate from Bucks County, also joined the fray. He knocked Welch on the grounds that one of his companies had pursued a $600,000 loan from the state. Welch said his company had dropped its loan bid and never received any money.

Was there a clear winner of the evening? Not entirely. The two candidates that appeared to be room favorites were Christian and Welch, with both receiving applause regularly after their statements. Welch seemed the strongest at the beginning of the debate, but began to show weaknesses later on. He is still dogged by his Democratic past.

But the debate marked the first debate when Welch was playing offense more than defense. His campaign called it a win and even posted a video of the some of the exchanges, along with snippets of Giordano’s recap.

Time is short for Welch, who has the endorsement of the Pa. Republican party. Recent polls have shown Smith in the lead, followed by Rohrer, with Welch in fifth place.

Other issues:

On the topic of the health care law and its mandate, all 5 candidates agreed that it was unconstitutional and going to hurt our economy.

“Government is trying to control one-sixth of our economy,” said Marc Scaringi, an attorney from Cumberland County, in reference to health care. “Obamacare is driving up premiums 6-9 percent. It is going to cost $2 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Obamacare is breaking the bank.”

Rohrer said in his response that “it is unconstitutional for federal government to be regulating anything in the health care industry.”

Welch said that “Republicans believe we need [health care] reform as well but, fundamentally, this is a top down approach and two-thirds of Americans don’t approve.”

All candidates greatly disapproved of the job that Sen. Bob Casey is doing in Washington.

“Bob Casey has voted for policy after policy that has driven companies out of this country,” Welch said. “He is a big government guy. Big government actually hurts the people it was intended to protect.”

“Bob Casey has stayed so far under the radar, nobody knows who he is,” said Christian. “We need a man who is a leader, someone who is going to stand up and say I believe this is wrong and I stand against it.”

Among one of the more alarmist responses, Smith said “if we send Casey back for another term, I’m not sure if we are going to recognize this country in six years.”

Scaringi believes that “Casey has flip-flopped” on his pro-life stance he used in his campaign. “He voted to fund planned parenthood,” Scaringi said, “He’s not a defender of the right to life, a topic that is important to the people of Pennsylvania.”

April 5th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Senate, Top Stories | 19 Comments

19 thoughts on “Thanks to Dems, Senate Debate Heats Up”

  1. All the Republican candidates are qualified and the Republican party is enriched by their willingness to undertake the challenge of running for public office.

    I am a Tom Smith guy for a variety of reasons, not the least of which he is willing not only to pledge his honor but his fortune to this undertaking. No small thing and many very vocal Republicans need to remember that $$$ are the most tangible symbol of support.

    The Republican State Committee, however, does not seem to recognize the party’s good fortune. The RSC tried to push Dave Christian off the ballot.

    As most of know, or should know, the RSC endorsements were rigged. Fortunately, all the non-endorsed have been willing to run a primary and let Republican voters choose,

    I have met both Tom Smith and Steve Welch and neither is a Democrat, a Statist, or a phony. To fixate on one thing alone, is intellectual laziness and leads to a simple-minded analysis.

    Tom Smith has contributed $100s of $1000s to Republican and conservative candidates which is more than any other candidate has. Sorry, but money is necessary to a political campaign.

  2. Thanks for the article and snyposis. I really had wanted to go but work that day was super long (real estate is in fire). It will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

  3. John says:


    Ask yourself this question:.””Who in the US Senate has ever debated Sam Rohrer ?” Last check debating Sam Rohrer has no relationship to being able to debate on the Senate floor. In fact, there is no requirement to debate on the senate floor unless you so choose. The entire premise is flawed based on a false presupposition.

    Incidentally,the Rohrer campaign cancelled a confirmed visit by Sam to the DuBois Republican Club on April 3rd. I know, I was the planner w/ the campaigns..

  4. John says:

    The democrats are not putting out press releases to help the republicans. They are putting them out to undermine the candidate they fear the most. To believe otherwise is plain naive. The democrats know who they want to run against. PRIMARY ON!

  5. Steve Sy says:

    No surprise Welch is a crook. He was handpicked by Corbett. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I remember working the polls in the 2010 primary as a gop volunteer, and this guy publicly hammered me for handing out Corbett literature, going on and on about how he is a crook, and his father was a crook. I was cut down to size. I clearly didn’t have all the info I should have in order to encourage others what to do with their vote.
    My two cents don’t listen to the party, or the people at the polls. Most of them are uninformed, under informed, biased, or waiting for their own payoff. Decide for yourself. Oh and my personal advice…



  6. Barricks Einwohner says:

    After Sam Rohrer won his first general election in 1992, the Reading Eagle / Times revealed that Rohrer was unemployed. Rohrer revealed that he accepted a furlough from his employer to save a job for another individual. Nice guy and real convenient at the time since Rohrer was already running for the State House. I have always wondered if Rohrercollected un-employment compensation while he was campaigning. Doesn’t seem like he was available or looking for work at the time. As previously mentioned above Sam Rohrer voted for the pension and salary increases. Sam Rohrer told the Reading newspapers that he voted for the pension increase in 2001 because it would not “cost the taxpayers a dime”. He is doing very well with that pension after only 18 years of State service. There are thousands of low level front line State retirees with many more years of service receiving a lot less. When Sam Rohrer ran for re-election for the first time, confidential sealed information was obtained from another state and used against his primary opponent, the son of a former State Rep. According to the Reading newspapers, this information could only have been available through law enforcement channels. Rohrer denied knowing anything about it. At that time his campaign was bankrolled in part by a PAC funded by his former employer and managed by the individual who now occupies Rohrer’s old 128th District seat. Another time when expensive State paid car leases were under scrutiny, Sam Rohrer justified an expensive SUV lease in the Reading newspapers by saying that his wife might “need to drive it down the road”. At a Berks County Farm Bureau candidates forum held during Rohrer’s last campaign for State House, Sam Rohrer answered the question if he would be willing to pay for part of his premium State paid health insurnace plan by saying, ” I pay co-payments”. Every other candidate present answered that they would except him. After Rohrer left the State House, the Reps.have begun to pay 1% of their saIaries which is much less than the typical front line State employee. I could go on, but this is my point: Sam Rohrer, the champion of small government, never had a problem take advantage of big govenrment perks for his own personal benefit. Pennsylvanians do not need a back bencher who accomplished nothing legislatively in 18 years except collect a pay check and great perks.

  7. Sean Ryan says:

    Rorher is a conservative fraud who secretly voted for himself to recieve a midnight pay raise and a 50% pension increase on the taxpayer dollar.
    Welch is a Democrat Just like Smith. When you want to protest your party you register as an independent not as the polar opposite. How did the Democratic party identify with Welch?
    How come Smith stayed a Democrat until he decided to run for Senate?

    The only legitimate candidate is also the only war hero, Dave Christian who r3egardless ofpolitics did more for Veterans groups than all the others combined. He comes from the humble beginnings of Levittown, a true working class area.

  8. Mrs. Feldman says:

    I heard that you either need friends in high places or threaten to move your company out of the state to get one of those sweetheart loan deals that Ed Rendell gave to Welch Phoenixville, llc.

    I’d love to know which it was. Maybe Welch can enlighten us on this. Or perhaps someone can use Pa’s Right-to-Know laws to track down Welch’s application on this.

  9. Alan says:

    Great info on Welch’s handout from Rendell
    Since Welch denies it could we get a fact check article from Sy Snyder

  10. Mark E Mark says:

    From the Office of Governor Rendel:

    HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Governor Edward G.
    Rendell today said a new $5 million investment by the commonwealth will
    result in the creation and retention of nearly 400 jobs in five counties.

    The low-interest loans from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development
    Authority will: help seven projects — primarily with companies in the
    manufacturing industry; leverage more than $8.6 million in private sector
    funding; and add more than 250,000 square feet of infrastructure.

    “As the manufacturing sector evolves, the commonwealth must evolve with
    it,” Governor Rendell said. “Through PIDA, we are able to partner with
    companies to improve their short- and long-term growth, foster statewide
    economic development and job creation, and ensure Pennsylvania’s
    competitiveness in the global economy.”

    PIDA loans provide capital for infrastructure acquisition, creation and
    renovation projects primarily for manufacturers, industrial developers,
    research and development firms, agricultural processors and employers
    looking to establish national or regional headquarters in Pennsylvania.
    Welch Phoenixville LLC, beneficial-owner of biotechnology companies
    Mitos Technologies, Mito Molding and Mitos BioSystems, will receive a
    $642,177 PIDA loan for enhancements to a new facility in Upper Providence
    Township. The organizations will occupy half of the 40,000-square-foot
    building, which is currently under construction. All 24 existing employees
    will be transferred to the new site and 47 new jobs will be created. The
    Montgomery County Industrial Development Corporation is sponsoring this
    $2.1 million project.

  11. Alan says:

    Worth noting that the pension raise increased all pensions 25% and legislators 50%. That pension raise gave us the public school PSERS pension crisis. PSERS pensions are destroying classroom education in every School District in PA

  12. Ian says:

    Rohrer is a fraud. He’s not a has been he’s a never was. He has no legislative experience to speak of aside from sitting in Harrisburg and voting for his middle of the night payraise and a pension boost for himself. He never passed a bill. His property tax bill that he so fiendishly relied on to trick senior voters every two years was fraudulent and would have left the state broke. He was a nut that no one took serious when he was in Harrisburg. So that’s out of the question. I’m a Christian or a Smith guy.

  13. Deborah says:

    It’s about time the gloves came off! As former Dem’s both Smith and Welch must be shown for what they are. I am sickened every time I see a Smith TV ad-he flat-out lies and says he’s been a life-long conservative. There aren’t any conservative Democrats-period. SAM ROHRER has my vote!

  14. Alan says:

    What’s with the Welch campaign photo alone
    Are you taking sides with your reporting
    Even the Philly Inquirer Daily News had a fairer report

  15. the Rocks says:

    Let me remind everyone that Welch was the first to go negative in this campaign when he showed up to an event and dropped some bush-league hit piece on Burns. When Burns fought back, the Welch campaign pointed at Tim and cried, “he’s going negative!” and “he’s desperate.”

    You watch, when these guys start fighting back against the smears and half-truths Welch shamelessly pedals, he’s gonna remind you of that same winy, classless little turd.

  16. ProLife Family says:

    Finally someone is asking the right question of Welch! Check out the featured video at

  17. Beth Stevens says:

    Tom Smith cancelled a one-on-one debate with Sam Rohrer. He knows he would be toast against Sam’s knowledge of the issues and Sam’s experience. If Tom won’t debate Sam, how will he be able to debate on the Senate Floor? You can’t cancel those debates!

  18. Beth Stevens says:

    Sam Rohrer is the only Candidate with legislative experience. All the others would need a long learning curve. We don’t need to elect someone who will have to be “babysat” and taught how things work. We need someone who can walk right into Washington, roll up his sleeves, and get to work! And that man is Sam Rohrer!

  19. Beth Stevens says:

    My support is with Sam Rohrer. Sam is a true statesman and Constitutionalist.

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