By Keegan Gibson and Ali Carey
Things are heating up in the Republican race to face U.S. Senator Bob Casey.
With many candidates having just jumped into the race, PolitcsPA checked in with GOP candidates Tim Burns, David Christian, Mark Scaringi, Tom Smith, John Vernon and Steve Welch about their experience this Friday at Republican State Committee in Harrisburg.
Most of the candidates were very encouraged by the many strong Republican candidates this election cycle.
“I think people are excited because they’re realizing that Bob Casey is beatable,” said Welch, a businessman and former congressional candidate.
“People are still energized. They look at 2010, the energy level is still there if not it’s even higher than it was in 2010,” Welch said.
Christian, who announced his candidacy Friday at the Republican State Committee meeting, emphasized that Pennsylvanians feel like the Obama Administration has let them down and Republicans across the state are uniting in their disapproval of the President.
“I’m sure that with [Obama’s] words he means well, but the results we have to look at. People in PA are suffering. I have people coming knocking on my doors. Their voice is cracking, tears in their eyes saying, ‘Can you serve your country again?'” said Christian, the seven-time winner of the Purple Heart. He ran for congress twice in the 1980s and since has devoted most of his time to advocating for veterans.
Christian was dismissive when asked how he will compete against candidates who are better able to self-fund their campaigns.
“It’s ridiculous. You saw Corzine spend $90 million. You saw in California $146 million thrown in the race. Americans no longer let you buy a race. If you don’t have it in your heart and in your soul to service this country, then it’s not gonna matter what’s in your pocketbook. Yes, you need a foundation of finances to get involved, but if you have that foundation and America sees you, you better be able to launch yourself. You’ve got to be able to hold those reigns and you better be able to deliver on your promises,” he said.
Scaringi, the Harrisburg-area attorney, likely agrees. He has had trouble achieving a competitive level of fundraising. His most campaign finance recent report (filed in June) showed a total of about $50,000.
In the next couple weeks Scaringi said his campaign will be making some major announcements regarding upcoming fundraisers, the selection of his finance chairman and several members of the finance committee.
“Theses are big donors who have a lot of experience going back many years financing and doing fundraising going statewide and local Republican candidates. So I’m very happy, pleased and blessed that they’re looking to my candidacy as the one that’s going to win.”
Those donors might help to fund the first ad of the 2012 campaign, in which Scaringi singles out Welch for his 2008 party change.
Coal industry veteran and Tea Party leader Tom Smith may be a first-time candidate, but he said he was not daunted by the challenge of a statewide campaign.
“There is a difference but there’s not a huge difference between running companies that employed 135 people and trying to run this. There’s a lot of similarities there. Common sense and handwork, that’s how I ran my business and that’s what we’re trying to do here with this campaign,” said Smith.
Although he’s yet to make an official campaign announcement, Smith’s team has already picked up several seasoned campaign staffers and expects to make an official campaign announcement in the coming weeks.
John Vernon also had a positive experience at his first Republican State Committee meeting.
“The state committee meeting was a great opportunity for me to continue connecting with Republican chairpersons and leaders from throughout the state. The one theme I heard from all state committee members is that we are united in our effort to defeat Bob Casey and Barrack Obama in 2012, and restore our country to its standing of greatness,” said the retired Colonel and 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army
After Friday night’s dinner Vernon hosted a well-attended cocktail reception for State Committee Members. His campaign also manned a booth outside the dinner and during Saturday’s meetings.
Tim Burns, the businessman and two-time pa-12 congressional candidate, joined his soon-to-be opponents in Harrisburg. It was the strongest evidence yet of his likelihood to run for U.S. Senate.
“Well, I’m here. So obviously I’m pretty serious about it. I’ve gotten a lot of folks who have encouraged me to take a look at it so I have,” Burns told PoliticsPA on Friday. “I don’t have any of the current slate of candidates are by any means running away with or have gotten a whole lot of traction so I think it’s anybody’s race at this point.”
He said that his final decision was likely within the month.
“Within the next week to two weeks max, I would say I would make a decision. I need to make sure that I am going to be able to get the necessary support both here and fundraising.”
“I think that based on the campaign I ran here last cycle and the support base I got both volunteer and fundraising, I’m getting a lot of positive response. I’m probably leaning towards getting into this race.”
Whoever ultimately wins the nomination is likely to face an uphill battle against Casey, who has already banked $3.1 million and is on track to raise at least a million more this quarter. However, his approval ratings have recently fallen short of the fifty percent mark. His support for most parts of President Barack Obama’s agenda, whose numbers in Pennsylvania have been slipping, could also pose a liability.
Spokesman Larry Smar said the Senator is not focusing on politics.
“Right now, Senator Casey is focused on creating jobs and doing everything possible to help Pennsylvanians impacted by the floods. He will be prepared to run a strong campaign.”
Finally, we leave you with the video that was playing on the projector when PoliticsPA walked into Scaringi’s ice cream social:
Followed immediately by this one: