LOCK HAVEN - Tom Smith, a western Pennsylvania farm boy, retired coal-mining millionaire and conservative Republican, already bucked the odds by unexpectedly earning the GOP nomination as candidate for U.S. Senate.
The self-described "citizen candidate" arrived in Clinton County Monday on a multi-county campaign tour that will take him through the heart of Pennsylvania. And he participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the "Victory Center" on Bellefonte Avenue.
Smith is carrying many of the Republican platform standards on his journey, including less spending, fewer regulations, and getting out of the way of private enterprise.
ELIZABETH REGAN/THE EXPRESS
Above, A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Monday afternoon at the Victory Center, officially opening the Clinton County Republican Party’s campaign headquarters at 37 Bellefonte Ave., the former Wolf’s Furniture store. Participating were, from left, CC Commissioner Jeff Snyder, Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pa.’s Fifth District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kurt Smith, chairman of CC Republican Party, U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith, former CC Commissioner Tom Bossert, City Councilwoman Lynda Carey, and CC Commissioner Pete Smeltz.
Below, Former CC Commissioner Tom Bossert led the cake cutting at the Victory Center. The Clinton County Republican Party donated to each candidate. From left, CC Republican Party Chairman Kurt Smith holds a check for John Maher (CPA for Auditor General); Williamsport City Council President Bill Hall accepts a check for Diana Vaughan (for State Treasurer) and David Freed (for Attorney General); U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith; Tom Bossert; Tim Houser for State Senate, Pa.’s 35th District; and Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pa.’s Fifth District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He is running against incumbent Bob Casey, and he's using his experience as a business owner, farmer and family man as the foundation for his arguments to prospective voters.
Formerly a lifelong Democrat, Smith changed his voter registration to Republican last August and used nearly $5 million of his own fortune, to win the primary election over a crowded pool of unknown GOP primary candidates.
Smith, who is married and has six daughters and one son (four of them - three daughters and a son - adopted), sold his successful coal mining businesses in 2010.
Smith still lives on the farm in Armstrong County where he grew up.
After graduating from Elderton High School in 1965, he postponed college to help his father tend that farm and supplemented his income by driving a school bus.
Before long, Tom married, started his family, and went to work in a local surface coal mine.
In 1989, Smith entered the coal business himself, building a series of companies in a highly regulated industry through some tough economic times.
When he sold the companies in 2010, they were mining more than a million tons of coal a year and employed over 100 people.
Smith said he wasn't against common sense regulation, but pointedly singled out the Environmental Protection Act as the "employee prevention act," and said once approved, common sense laws often took on a bureaucratically-driven life of their own, becoming more complicated to deal with as a result.
The law was never created, he said, to protect a small, sub-species of fish by cutting off water to the entire San Joaquin Valley. Smith was talking about the EPA imposing water reductions on the California valley and environs to safeguard the federally protected hypomesus transpacificus, a.k.a., the delta smelt. (As a result, tens of billions of gallons of water from mountains east and north of Sacramento were channeled away from farmers and into the ocean, leaving hundreds of thousands of acres of formerly farmable land scorched.)
If there's one word Smith might use in most circumstances, it is "simplify."
If there are two words he does use regularly, they are "common sense."
From the tax code (he favors a flat tax) to Wall Street regulation, (he says the government is more to blame than Wall Street itself), Smith said his major focus as senator would be to simplify things and ask that others take a common sense approach to law making.
Asked about his platform, Smith makes no bones about his conservative leanings.
He opposes the Obama-Casey tax policies and said he will fight to reform the tax code to make it simpler and fairer. Smith also said he believes government's "out of control spending and debt" needs to end.
He also blamed the divisive nature of Congress on both sides of the podium, although he said the Democrats deserve more of the blame.
He said he desires an energy policy that will "reduce costs and reduce our dependence on foreign sources. The Marcellus Shale, American oil, and clean coal are tremendous opportunities to bring the cost of energy down and create jobs."
Smith is pro-life, period.
Smith also said he will vote to repeal "the expansive and intrusive government takeover of health care" represented by Obamacare, and replace it with "a market based solution that lowers costs and increases access."
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?
Common sense tells Smith these popular programs are going to go bankrupt if nothing is done, and when it comes to Social Security, maintaining the "promise" to the 55-and-older set is important, but younger people should be given the option of Social Security or private investment.
Bottom line for many government programs, he said, is "if the fuel tank is leaking, you don't dump more fuel into the tank ... You fix the leak."
A lifelong sportsman, gun owner, and strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Smith is a longtime member of the National Rifle Association. As Senator, he will oppose any attempt to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.
He opposes amnesty for immigrants who came here illegally supports term limits and supports programs for veterans and active duty personnel.
Like most Republican candidates, he wants to put most environmental regulations in the hands of the states and eliminate or lower federal taxes.