The Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC) concluded its two-day run in Camp Hill with a forum for the candidates for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.
It was an opportunity for six of the seven candidates to meet on the stage and talk about issues ranging from the Supreme Court nomination to COVID to “Big Tech.” And just a few comments about having credentials that would meet the Donald Trump stamp of approval.
George Bochetto, who has struggled to get on the stage with his better-funded opponents, noted that Trump selected him to assist with the former president’s second defense against impeachment.
Mehmet Oz seized on the opportunity to state he has fought for Trump’s policies since the COVID crisis began. He spoke how “big media” and “big medicine” have tried to silence him and his platforms.
“That’s why you need brave bold voices like mine to defend Pennsylvania in Washington,” he told the audience. “If we (conservatives) don’t say what we see… they will prosper, and they will be able to continue censoring us.”
Carla Sands, who grew up in Camp Hill, noted that she is the only candidate to be appointed by Trump directly. She, along with Sean Gale, went on to mention a lack of strength amongst some Republicans in Congress.
“We are very weak as a party because we have so many weak Republicans in Washington who go along to get along. They don’t hold the line against the hard left. They think compromise is the order of the day,” Sands said. “Let me tell you something. We keep compromising, and they (the left) keep taking. It is time for us to step up and take our country back.”
Gale went a step farther, calling out retiring U.S. Senator Pat Toomey. “I realize that I’m going to be one of 100 senators. I can’t tell you I’m going to go down and build the border wall myself,” Gale said. “I’m going there not only to hold Democrats accountable, but those bad Republicans who have failed us time and time again. “If nothing else is clear from my talk here today, I am not another Pat Toomey.”
Kathy Barnette, who won the PLC straw poll that was concluded before the forum, went after President Joe Biden and his choice of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court. “I believe qualifications should trump cosmetics, and I’m saying that as a Black woman,” Barnette said. “America used to be a land of, our motto was bring us your best and your brightest. Today, it’s all about bring us somebody who’s not white. Right? The less white you are, the better. I think that’s racist, personally.”
Jeff Bartos turned his focus to his hometown region and the rise in violence in Philadelphia. Speaking of oft-maligned Philly DA Larry Krasner, he said “for those of us who live in the Philadelphia area, we have watched what happens when someone comes into a really important office and then they are soft on crime even though they are charged to protect the citizens.” Then he pivoted toward Jackson. “That’s what happens when we let activist, leftist soft-on-crime leaders into positions of power, and that’s why if I was in the Senate… I would fight like hell to stop this nomination.”
The group was in agreement on opposing Jackson’s confirmation; supporting greater regulation and/or the breakup of Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter; and backing tougher policies against China.
“Get them all the weapons that they need today to defend their homeland, and the Taiwanese will do exactly what the Ukrainians are doing, which is standing up for freedom,” said Bartos.
“We have the best story to tell,” Barnette said of her conservative philosophy. “We just keep picking people who suck at telling it. But there is no one running a close second. When I walk through that door (as a Black woman) my very presence neutralizes more than half of Democrats’ talking points. That is power in the hands of the Republican Party.”
And to the absence of Dave McCormick, the former CEO of hedge fund Bridgewater Association, those on the stage appeared happy to share their thoughts.
Bochetto described McCormick as someone “who didn’t think his schedule was important enough to come and address the most important group in Pennsylvania that there is.”
Bartos added sarcastically that “the traffic to get from Connecticut to Harrisburg on a weekend is terrible,” alluding to McCormick’s residence in the Nutmeg State in recent years.
“The reason Beijing Dave is not here is because he built the biggest hedge fund in China for over a billion dollars,” Oz said. “Why? Because they could make more money there, they thought, than here. Our commonwealth lost more jobs than any other state in America mainly because they were outsourced overseas.”
In a statement, McCormick spokesperson Jess Szymanski denied that the candidate was avoiding discussing China. “From the battlefield to the boardroom, Dave has gone toe-to-toe with China his whole life and is the only candidate with real experience standing up to the Chinese Communist Party.”