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Smith’s 66th District opponents take aim at him, Harrisburg at Republican event

March 29, 2012

Party officers and candidates in attendance at the Jefferson County Republican Party’s annual spring banquet Thursday at the Bellamauro Social Hall in Reynoldsville were (front, from left) Chad Horner, state committeeman; Maxine Zimmerman, county auditor; state Sen. Joe Scarnati; (back) state Rep. Sam Smith; U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith; 66th District candidate Cris Dush; auditor general candidate Frank Pinto; and 66th District candidate Jim Brown.

REYNOLDSVILLE — Two Republican candidates seeking the 66th Legislative District seat in the state House of Representatives said Thursday night that Harrisburg regulates its constituents too much and is not pushing a conservative agenda, despite the Republican majority.

Meanwhile, the man they hope to unseat — incumbent House Speaker Sam Smith — stood on his record and as a leading voice for rural Pennsylvania.

The Jefferson County Republican Party held its annual spring banquet Thursday at the Bellamauro Social Hall, this time, however, without its Chairman Troy Harper, who is undergoing treatment for a medical condition.

Smith’s opponents in the April 24 primary — James R. Brown, of Brockway, and Cris Dush, of Brookville — both said politicians in Harrisburg are not delivering to the people of Pennsylvania.

“Why am I running for the 66th District seat? Because I’m a God-fearing man who expects more out of government,” said Brown, adding that despite a Republican majority, representatives are “still having trouble pushing a conservative agenda in the General Assembly.”

He said because of that, the General Assembly has not stopped legislation that does defend “the rights of the weakest in Pennsylvania.” Also, Brown — a 35-year educator who currently works at Jeff Tech — said the ultimate people responsible for education are
the parents, and that local control should be returned to the local schools.

Brown also advocates repealing laws that choke the economy, such as property taxes, and says that the people of Pennsylvania are his priority.

He also said if elected, he would refuse the pension.

Next, Dush — who retired as a corrections officer in 2011 — said he has seen Harrisburg “explode in size” with government growth, and that Pennsylvania’s most valuable resource — its people — are fleeing.

He said it costs an employer $7,000 per employee in order to comply with regulatory laws, and while townships are tearing up tarred and chipped roads, “There are bus drivers in Philadelphia making more than education administrators.”

During his military career, Dush said he has dealt with bureaucrats around the world, and those in Harrisburg have a lot in common with them: “If you don’t hold them accountable, they will run amok. They will take everything they can from you.”

In his own defense, Smith, of Punxsy, said when he was first elected to the state House, he was among mostly suburban representatives. It was then that he knew he wanted to be a voice for rural communities in Pennsylvania.

“I said I’d listen and learn, I’d help and lead,” and his legislation can be seen in the environment; in education, through the education tax credit; and accountability block grants.

He disagreed that the Republican majority is not “conservative enough,” as it has passed legislation against lawsuit abuse; regulating abortion clinics such as any other medical facility; and he has been consistency endorsed by Second Amendment and pro-life groups.

Smith also disagreed with one of his opponent’s assertion that he shouldn’t talk too much to newer lawmakers, because he said, “I learned that leaders should bring up leaders to follow them.”

Also Thursday, talk among the speakers didn’t focus so much on Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney of Rick Santorum, but on another common theme: Bouncing Democrats — mainly Barack Obama — out of office.

U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Smith, an Armstrong County native who formerly worked in coal business, said his main objective “is to defeat (incumbent) Bob Casey.”

He said he would like the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Obama’s health care plan, and that Casey has been among those standing in the way.

Smith also said Obama’s energy policy is “an all-out-war” on the coal industry, and that the Keystone Pipeline should have been built.

“So many people are scared to death about where this country is going,” Smith said. “In 2010, were threw out all the big spenders in the state House, and in 2012, we’ll do the same in the U.S. Senate ... and send Obama back to Chicago.”

Also Thursday:
• Peter Winkler, representing U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-5) said while he visits many events on Thompson’s behalf, he is impressed by the way Jefferson County Republicans rally behind candidates in contested primaries — even after the primaries are over.

Thompson will see an opponent in the general election, Winkler said, and that “unless there is a change in the White House, Americans have not heard the last of Obamacare” — especially if he wins another four-year term.”

• State Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, of Brockway, shared brief remarks, yet recognized Bernard Snyder for being named the “Man of the Year” for 2011 in Reynoldsville.

• Sam Smith recommended his colleague in the state House, John Maher, of Allegheny County, for the office of auditor general.

• Another candidate for auditor general is Frank Pinto, of Dauphin County, who is the former head of the Pennsylvania Community Bankers’ Association.

He described himself as an independent fiscal watchdog, saying, “I’m the new guy that’s old running for the Rodney Dangerfield job: The second-most powerful office in Pennsylvania.”

Pinto said he’s a college professor who knows politics, talks politics and “doesn’t give a damn about anything except one thing: Your money.”
• Also offering remarks was Mary Stein, of Erie, who seeks to become a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

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