Close this search box.

Welch, Cummings Shine at Altoona Forum

From left to right: Smith, Cummings, Welch, Kensinger. Photo credit: Frank Filkosky

By Frank Filkosky, Contributing Writer

Altoona — Four Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls met Thursday night to meet, greet, and take questions from the Blair County Republican Women.

Speaking in front of a largely Tea Party-leaning audience of about 75, the candidates discussed a variety of policy issues from health care, to taxes, to man each of them hopes to face: incumbent Senator Bob Casey.

From the top tier of the race were Tom Smith, a coal industry veteran and former Tea Party leader from Armstrong County and Steve Welch, a Chester County entrepreneur who ran for congress in 2010. It was the first time that those candidates faced off.

Also speaking were Laureen Cummings, co-founder of the Scranton Tea Party; and John Kensigner, a Bedford County pharmacist.

It was a forum, rather than a debate, and it did not include Harrisburg area attorney Marc Scaringi or Tioga County veteran John Vernon because they had spoken to the group previously. Other candidates were invited but unable to attend.

Moderator and BCRW President Lois Kaneshiki started off the emotionally charged debate with her opening remarks exclaiming, “We must make Pennsylvania a red state.  We must make Obama a one term President. We also must make Bob Casey a one term Senator!  And that starts here.”

One of the major topics of discussion and the first question dealt with the repeal of ‘Obamacare,’ the recently passed health care law.  All four of the candidates strongly encouraged repeal. Welch drew applause with his description of a system focused on decentralization.

Cummings, who throughout the night was a crowd favorite, drew boisterous applause on the issue of education.

“I believe the Department of Education should be abolished and [education] needs to be run by the states,” she said.

“The more we empower our local communities to run our schools the more they feel ownership in that and the more the community is engaged,” said Welch.

Tax reforms and spending control were other areas of discussion.

“Personally, I favor a flat tax of 15 percent for all Americans,” said Kensinger.

Smith called the current tax system, “absolute insanity,” and added, “we have to reduce the corporate tax the federal government has.  Growth is the key!”

Smith did better in the face-to-face portion of the event. Photo credit: Frank Filkosky

Smith was the only candidate who had the opportunity to respond to the possible candidacy of State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.  He dismissed the impact that such an announcement would have, saying, “He’s just another seat at this table. Just another hat in the ring.”

How They Did

Cummings, in sync with the conservative audience, got the best reception and most frequent applause.

Kensinger sounded much more impressive than just an also-ran Thursday night. He confidently and competently articulated his conservative positions on tax policy.

Smith did fairly well, but his first-time candidate status showed through a few times. He deferred on a question about the supercommittee and had a few other trips. He did much better during the meet and greet prior to the event.

Welch’s previous time on the stump is apparent. Comfortable with the issues, he also scored several applause lines. Welch followed his success at a similar event in Delaware County two weeks ago with another strong performance.

Welch and Cummings won the night.

5 Responses

  1. Pike Republican, you’re obviously a man, it took a lot of courage to speak honestly to a room full of strangers. Invite Laureen back to Pike County, I promise you………she speaks, just fine.

  2. Vernon and Rohrer have the two best shots at rallying the entire base after the primary.

    Let the primary go on without endorsements. Otherwise, why even waste the time and money to hold a primary. Obviously there are still those who feel they should be choosing whom the best candidate is, not the primary voters.

  3. Pike Republican – Welch who has admitted that in 2005 being mad at both parties, impulsively stopped by a post office and changed his registration from republican to democrat. Now if he is mad at both parties why didn’t he change to independent?

    I can see it now. In September 2012 the democrats would start bashing Welch on being a turncoat and we will have Casey for another 6 years.

    As a State Committee Member first I will vote not to endorse. I would never vote for Welch. I don’t trust him.

    Everyone is looking at who can win the primary. It’s not about the primary. In November, it’s not about the issues but about who can get the democrats to vote for him/her.

  4. Cummings can speak? When she was in Pike in October she couldn’t complete a sentence without crying or having a blank stare for 45+ seconds. Chairman Decker is an impressive young conservative who gives all candidates an equal opportunity when they visit Pike but the 200 +/- people attending the Pike GOP Fall Dinner felt that Decker should not have let Cummings waste our time. Scaringi was ok and Welch was excellent, Smith didn’t bother to attend. Scaringi and Welch both met with party leaders and activists before the event. I hope the three State Committee members from Pike vote to endorse Welch… I hate that he was recently a Dem for a few years but he has a better grasp of the issues than Scaringi and he isn’t a life-long Dem like Smith… Cummings has NO shot at Casey and Pileggi should just stay where he is.

  5. Laureen Cummings is the real deal……she fights for us! Electing her for Senate will amplify our voice.

  • Reader Poll: Should President Joe Biden Step Aside?

    • Yes. He should step aside because of his age, declining ability to do the job. (45%)
    • No. He should not step aside. (39%)
    • Yes. He should step aside because he can't beat Donald Trump. (15%)

    Total Voters: 231

    Loading ... Loading ...
Continue to Browser


To install tap and choose
Add to Home Screen