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Smith Kicks Off U.S. Senate Campaign

By Keegan Gibson and Sari Heidenreich

Coal industry veteran and former Tea Party leader Tom Smith officially announced his U.S. Senate candidacy Tuesday morning in a fly-around tour of the state.

“I am humbled and encouraged by the support I have received in my campaign, from Republicans … and also from Democrats and Independents who believe it may be time for Mr. Smith to go to Washington.”

Harrisburg was Smith’s second stop on a two-day announcement tour across the state. He spoke in the headquarters of Hydroworx, a company that manufactures specialty underwater treadmills for use in rehabilitation.

“He’s putting himself out there to try to change things. That impresses me,” said CEO Anson Flake. “He doesn’t have to stand up, he could just enjoy the fruits of his labor for so many years. I’m impressed that he’s doing that.”

Flake’s company aids athletes from several Pennsylvania professional teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers. They also work with Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, and are hoping to add Temple University soon.

Smith sought to preempt charges of party-switching, saying up front that he spent years as a “Regan Democrat” before becoming disaffected and changing his party registration to Republican earlier this year.

Recognizing that he is fighting against an familiar name, Smith said he’s “not afraid of long odds.” He attacked incumbent Sen. Bob Casey’s voting record.

“There is nothing conservative about Bob Casey’s record as a Senator – and no politician deserves to be elected just because of his father’s legacy. Simply put, he is not getting the job done.”

Smith is a first-time candidate and emphasized his background in business and agriculture, pointing out several times that he is “not a professional politician.”

His appearance today backed up this claim: Smith’s speech lacked the political polish many are used to hearing from candidates. His overall presentation was strong, but he fumbled a few times as he read from prepared remarks.

Sources close to Smith acknowledge that public speaking is a skill the campaign is developing, but emphasize that Smith excels at one-on-one retail politics.

So far, several Pennsylvania lawmakers have come out to endorse Smith, among them Sen. Don White (R-41) and five of the six house members who represent the Indiana-Armstrong area.

They include Reps. Eli Evankovich, Tim Krieger, Donna Oberlander, Jeff Pyle and Dave Reed, who is also Chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee.

Smith has been responsible for his family farm since he graduated from high school and worked over 20 years to build a coal operation. The companies grew to a height of 140 employees and a payroll of $8.6 million annually. Before Smith sold the operation in 2010, he contributed around $250,000 to various Republican candidates and causes. The profits from the sale place his net worth in the millions, and will form the financial base of his campaign in the near term.

Smith also co-founded the Indiana-Armstrong Tea Party Patriots group in 2009 and served as chairman until this summer.

In this morning’s speech, he labeled government spending, debt and Washington as “out of control.”

“It’s time for citizens like you and I to take control back of our country and our future,” he said.

The Armstrong County native enters a Senate primary characterized by candidates will little to no statewide name ID. His fly around amounts to a show of logistical and financial force, and made it clear that he is among the top tier of the race.

David Christian, the Bucks County veterans’ advocate and former congressional candidate, Scranton TEA Party founder Laureen Cummings, Harrisburg-area attorney Marc Scaringi, and Mansfield native and 30 year U.S. Army veteran John Vernon have each declared his or her candidacy.

Two businessmen and former Congressional candidates – Steve Welch of Chester County and Tim Burns of Cambria County – are also likely to join the race.

Smith and his family began the day in Pittsburgh, and left for Philadelphia after the event in Middleton, near Harrisburg International Airport. Smith is traveling with his wife, six of his seven children, and seven of his eight grandchildren. On Wednesday, Smith will host events in Scranton, Johnstown, Erie, and in his home town of Elderton.


4 Responses

  1. Mr. Smith i would like to ask you a question about the destruction of military vehicles in stead of selling them or auctioning them off without the weapons of coarse to the AMERICAN PUBLIC !
    There is a lot of MOTOR HEADS out here that would like to own a vehicle that an AMERICAN HERO DROVE !

    Thank you for your time and GREAT WORK YOU HAVE DONE , chris smith

  2. Mr. Smith,

    Just heard your debate with Obamanite Casey. Why is it that politicians are
    so afraid to campaign on the repeal of Davis-Bacon (19310, the “baby” of
    labor unions. Were this act repealed, then the decent jobs would filter down
    from the $100,000-unionists to the workers who would be so happy with the
    $50,000 jobs that government spreads around in public projects. The
    manipulated “prevailing wage” is weapon against spreading more jobs
    to many workers and a travesty against taxpayers.

  3. I just read this article. I’m sorry, but I don’t think any voters are going to view Mr. Smith as Conservative. If anyone felt they were Conservative, they would have switched parties if not in 2008, but certainly by the Fall 2010 elections. This just sounds like plain old trying to buy an election bid.

    I don’t think all the raised money in PA will help sell this. Sorry. Someone has to say it.

  4. I met Tom Smith last night @ dinner, and he appears to be a “solid conservative” as well.

    Moreover, he projects a sense of humility that contrasts with that of Steve Welch.

    His campaign-organization has a strong Toomey-vintage; it is being run by Mark Harris, et al. and Tom contributed EIGHT years ago to Toomey [also having supported John Thune…who defeated Tom Daschle].

    Note that they already placed a banner-ad on this site.

    Realistic handicapping is amplified by support from John Kennedy and input from Guzzardi; Scaringi’s association with Santorum [and his spending-history] is viewed as toxic.

    I’m also told that only Tom and Steve are sufficiently wealthy to assist in a self-funding effort; this is a realistic consideration during the upcoming cycle…everything else being equal.

    Tom plans to visit SE-PA often, to get to know the Committee-People; this-a.m., he is finishing his 2-day roll-out…starting in Scranton.

    Also, it appears [private information] that Sam Rohrer was going to have announced any intention to run by Labor Day…and the fact that he only raised $300K last cycle portends he may want to remain the chair of ATR.

    Regarding the poll, it would appear that the discussion of the preferred candidate was a bit more inflated than that of the competitors but, regardless, it would appear that it would be “fun” to ask them all to appear loco-regionally for a loose-format issues-discussion.

    Tom is particularly versed in business, the environment, and energy-related issues; he recognizes the need for the political-conversion of D.C. to be completed in 2012 [including a Senate Super-Majority].

    Finally, it would appear that the ability to encompass both the standard-GOP and the TEA Party Movement will be pivotal, and it appears that Tom can do so; I do not know where the others will be positioned.

    One more point: when Tom speaks, he looks you in the eye; he’s sincere and obviously carries no political baggage.

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