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The 8th District Circus Candidate Forum

Last night, we gave up a couple of hours to civic duty in the name of being educated voters. The local Tea Party organization, Kitchen Table Patriots, did an absolutely swell job at pulling together a great event that served as a fantastic way to weed out the serious candidates from the not-so-serious candidates. Just about everyone in attendance – and they filled a large school auditorium – could walk away feeling like they had a choice of key candidates.

But that’s not very fun to report, so in comes the snark. And some interesting observations about Patrick Murphy via his sleazy staffers who kept violating the rules to disrupt those around them.

General Observations
These kinds of events are very hard on candidates, especially if they don’t have any formal public speaking experience or haven’t been trained to really rally an audience. While my criticism will mostly be snark, it also pales in comparison to what Patrick Murphy’s deceitful little followers will say. Not to mention, if some of the candidates had more confidence, they could have better sold their most controversial plans. I have two very specific examples of this winning over audience members with one candidate and costing support to another.

The moderator, Steve Highsmith, did a fantastic job at keeping the event running smoothly. He was friendly and engaging without getting boring and monotonous with the same questions for each candidate. Since there were 9 candidates each getting 12 minutes, that was serious work.

There were some crappy questions. Like the “Yes or No: We should weaken Roe v. Wade.” What does that even mean? You’re talking about one of the most hotly debated legal questions of our time, it’s hardly a yes or no answer. They also asked candidates to take an ATR-esque pledge on taxes that all save one agreed to. I will say now that there were no questions or remarks about the Second Amendment.

One big surprise of the evening was a question about medical marijuana. They asked it in the context of 10th amendment, and whether or not candidates agreed with President Obama’s executive order to not go after those growing & distributing medical marijuana in states that have legalized it. Half of the candidates agreed! Holy cow! The old woman in front of me was in great distress every time someone agreed, so I took extra joy in each answer. It was wrong, but I laughed inside each time she shook her head disapprovingly. I was tempted to say something controversial involving drugs, alcohol, and sex in front of her for kicks, but I figured after the crazy controversy of medical marijuana, her heart could probably only stand so much…

Dean Malik
@DeanMalik2010 Facebook Page
Going into this forum, Malik was the strongest candidate based on outside observations. One of the first bits of news from his website was securing a local GOP club nomination. To me, that actually said he was taking the political side of this seriously. As Geraghty mentioned, he has an intriguing biography that would make anyone’s head turn.

Leaving this forum, I’m not sure. However, that’s only because what I’d really like to do is take him, add the raw speaking talent of another candidate, throw in a dose of specifics from yet another candidate, and come out with the perfect blend of talents, views, and stories. On my way back down to reality, I do realize that he’s still one of the strongest by far. Even if I didn’t see it, Patrick Murphy does.

His minions were sent (at least 4 by my count) to try and get dirt on any opposition. The audience was asked not to take photos (distracting) or record (distracting to the audience when a camera blocks your view), but Murphy’s staff absolutely refused to honor the request, even after being caught and asked to cut it out by volunteers throughout the event. There were only two candidates during which Patrick Murphy’s disruption team tried to keep getting video, and Dean Malik was one of them. So Murphy is fearful of Malik and was willing to send staff out to distract and catch video of any fumbles.

Overall, Malik makes you feel good about him. He comes off as an all-around good guy who you want to talk to, to be friends with. However, he could use some professional debate prep. He was caught off guard by the Roe question, and I don’t blame him since it was a crappy question. But nonetheless, his hesitation stood out compared to his other answers.

Tom Lingenfelter
Tom debuted a brand new campaign strategy at tonight’s forum: Tell voters how much they suck. They suck for being voters. They suck for possibly being Republicans. They suck because they don’t vote for Tom. They suck for even turning out to such an event.

When not telling voters how much they suck, Tom indicated he may not honor treaties, and it didn’t really sound like he would give much thought to helping out Israel should they get attacked. Tom came off as one very angry old man.

Ira Hoffman
Hoffman was the surprise for me in this forum. I would put him up as a strong possibility for some office, even if I don’t quite think he’s ready for a Congressional run yet. He was very smooth & polished until his one big stumble when he wanted to return to his notes. The reason? He supports allowing the creation of a citizenship path to illegal immigrants who have been here an extraordinary amount of time without committing any other crimes. He had a formal statement written to deal with this, but in using the notes as his crutch, it drew painful attention to the content with the audience. Using the old lady in front of me as a guide for what the “over 50s” thought, there was much growling at the statement that she, in all honesty, otherwise never would have noticed the controversy.

Otherwise, he gave very good answers that had enough specifics to stand out and hit the right notes as a newbie candidate. Unfortunately, his little notes stumble about an issue he knew wouldn’t be popular was a bigger problem than it probably should be. He’s one of the candidates I would like to mix with Dean Malik to create the absolutely ideal new candidate.

Jeffrey Schott
@JeffSchott
I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t very nice about Jeffrey on my Twitter account. He seems like he means well, but the skills it takes to win a seat on his HOA board are clearly not the same skills needed to run for Congress. How do I say it without being cruel? Simply no. No way, no how, just no.

Jeffrey was really awkward about the questions. It definitely came off as though he can’t make decisions easily. He also couldn’t provide specifics when pressed about taxes, something that seems a little important if you’re talking to a tea party crowd. It was really just painful. I almost feel guilty for my snark. Almost.

Judith Algeo
I admit my bias going into the forum. Her big claim to fame is hating tatas. If I were a resident of Warwick, I’d be objecting to her objections to the only place actually hiring in this economy. It’s not really just about breasts, it’s about jobs. Seriously, this is the biggest thing that struggling Warwick families have to worry about? I doubt it.

But oh my Lord, this woman just provided comedy gold for the evening. She started off with the declaration that she’s smarter than Patrick Murphy. Just as I was finishing up noting the bold claim on Twitter, she was asked if she knew what the 10th amendment was, and she had to ask the moderator which one it was. Yes, I’m serious. She was the only candidate in the entire group who didn’t know what powers were in big ‘ole number 10. It’s the freakin’ tea party forum, I think an educated guess would be in order. It’s not like they’ve been out protesting the quartering of troops for the last year.

But the fun with Ms. Algeo didn’t stop there. She said she supported “sanctions” against businesses that hire illegals, in addition to fines. Now just what is a sanction on an American business? The only political context in which you ever hear the word is when we ban trade with another country. Does that mean she wants to ban Americans from trading with that business? I feel like explanation was called for here since that’s pretty damn dramatic to start having Congress issue sanctions against our own citizens.

As if she hadn’t done enough damage to her campaign, she then decided that the foot wasn’t far enough in her mouth and she would try shoving her whole damn leg in there. She indicated tax support for green jobs and then agreed that man is mostly responsible for global warming. (The temperature outside rarely jumps above freezing these days, warming my ass. If she’s a true greenie, she should have at least corrected it and said climate change.) There was no word on how she would support these green jobs and the legislation most often associated with so-called global warming with her pledge against taxes.

All-in-all, we actually agreed that even though Algeo wasn’t a terrible speaker, she was the worst candidate of the group after Lingenfelter. The stumbles just weren’t forgivable given the audience, and crowd was quite verbal with its disapproval of her global warming support. She really shouldn’t waste any more time or money in a primary campaign that she cannot possibly win. So someone go tell her there are more breasts that need battling in Warwick.

Jeffrey McGeary
Dude, you’re the youngest candidate in this race and you don’t have a website? You’re also the best looking candidate in this race, and you don’t have your mug up on a webpage yet?

Aside from young, tall, and cute, McGeary has passion. And he can communicate that passion. And OMG, my ears were ringing because he communicated that passion so very loudly with the mic so very close to his mouth.

McGeary is the other candidate for whom Patrick Murphy’s minions were trying to ruin things. Not that I blame them since he’s the other third of my “perfect candidate” DNA experiment. They were snapping video – yet again – in violation of the rules and again resulting in a volunteer having to come over to shut things down.

While he’s a bit too isolationist for us on foreign policy, the spirit and confidence that McGeary exuded had the crowd on their feet. He used the right language about the economic situation in focusing on small businesses. He spoke with such confidence about Roe being a non-issue at the moment that old lady in front of me didn’t notice, much less have the heart attack I would have predicted. (He said he wouldn’t move to weaken it because it’s simply not a decision that’s going to change right now.)

As Sebastian tweeted, he did volunteer to go down to the Texas border to personally patrol it for illegal immigrants. It made me think of Raj. Alas, McGeary’s biggest mistake outside of leaving half of the audience deaf and the other half turn down their hearing aids, was saying he would limit himself to only 3 terms of Congress if elected. If he’s a solid candidate, that would be a great disappointment to conservatives in the 8th.

James Jones
@Jones4Congress
I might officially be going nuts, but I could have sworn that James Jones had a functioning website before the debate. And, if I did recall that correctly, he was the one I was prepared to award the prize of “Top Comedian in a Congressional Race.” Yet the page riddled with errors seems to be gone. Damn.

The good news for Jones is that he surpassed our expectations. The bad news for Jones is that our expectations were not good.

Jones did hit on some very popular talking points about lost jobs and the economic troubles faced by businesses these days. But I don’t know that he did himself many favors by indicating a priority was to bring manufacturing jobs to Buck County. I don’t think that Bucks has really lost that many manufacturing jobs, so I’m not quite sure that’s relevant to the local economy.

He also did make one statement that I’m really shocked did not draw a reaction out of the crowd. When discussing illegal immigrants already in the country and working, he said to the side, “Some of us still have to do business.” Whoa, what? Does that mean he’s more forgiving of businesses that hire illegals? There’s so much that could be meant there. I wanted to know more. But he moved on. Damn.

Rob Mitchell
@VoteRob Facebook Page
I didn’t expect much from Rob, so he did technically beat expectations. He got the crowd laughing by referring to Murphy as an “incompetent Pelosi puppet,” something the Murphy minions clearly didn’t like. I guess the truth hurts.

Rob was the only candidate to not take the ATR-like tax pledge, but said he would instead support a flat tax with no deductions for property or charitable support. Rob also made an interesting argument in favor of medical tort reform. Interesting because his bio brags that he has been involved with the settlement process in lawsuits against fen-phen. Talk about walking the walk there, eh?

Rob is not a top candidate. He’s one of better not great candidates, but he’s not headed to DC any day soon. He didn’t have the mix of skills needed.

Gloria Carlineo
@carlineoPA08 Facebook Page
Simply put, Gloria isn’t ready. She said she wanted to run for office because America is great. A voter at the door would say that if it’s wonderful, they don’t want it to change.

In her answers on health care, Gloria claimed that there were really only two problems with the health system, that other than those two issues, there’s not a single problem with our health care system. Two problems: the need for tort reform & covering the uninsured. Uh, that last one is a pretty damn big problem if you’re looking for solutions. Unfortunately, she didn’t really give us an answer on exactly how she views the role of government is solving these two perceived issues.

On spending, she said the right things up until she said that she would ask people how they would like government money spent. Apparently she doesn’t realize that it’s how you end up with pork. She also really loves term limits. She went on and on and on and on and still on about how joyous she was that she was asked if she would term limit herself. Great. Answer the damn question if you were looking forward to it. She didn’t just want to limit herself, she wants to push for forced term limits in Congress of only 5 terms in the House and 2 in the Senate. Oh yeah, and she wants to abolish the Department of Education.

Even though I’ve talked about what she said that was wrong, we again classify her with Rob Mitchell as the top of the not as serious candidates. Gloria has a really compelling story, and that can go a long way. She comes off as very friendly, not a lawyer with a stick stuck up you know where. That is important, especially to a woman who is running for office.

Final Non-Snark Observations
Other than Lingenfelter & Algeo, we both agree that we want all of these candidates in public life in the future. We were pleasantly surprised by the strong role that the free market played in most of their answers. They generally weren’t pandering to the SoCo base, just emphasizing how a freer economy would be a benefit to all Americans. Some just need a little fine tuning by the pros to present themselves as serious Congressional candidates. Others need a lot more practice, but would be perfectly suitable for a run for state-level office.

As much as I was snarky in my coverage, I really do hope that these candidates look at other opportunities that may arise. Don’t focus exclusively on DC. We have problems in Harrisburg, and with the loss of a Congressional seat scheduled for PA in 2010, we need good people in there to redraw the seats.

I am also disappointed that so many embraced term limits. Why? If you’re doing a good job, let’s keep you working and gaining the seniority for leadership roles. If we think you’re doing a crappy job, we’ll send you home.

There was some chatter about the GOP already picking their favored candidate. That’s an understandable beef. The local GOP has apparently been trying to talk former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick into running again, and rumors are that he’s game. As a voter who is most interested in the candidate who is most likely to beat Patrick Murphy, I’m not opposed to this. However, Fitzpatrick seems to be giving the political finger to voters if he’s really serious.

  1. He’s dropping rumors about running, but his web presence is 4 years out-of-date. He gives us no public indication that he’s even living in 2010. Is he engaged in national politics right now? Is he even aware of what’s happening in DC? Does he have opinions that reflect anything past 2006? We wouldn’t know since he doesn’t want to tell us. It’s a half hour fix to update the site before dropping the rumors. He doesn’t even respect those of us who want to learn more enough to give us that half hour.
  2. Fitzpatrick started spreading his rumors about running the week before the tea party candidate forum. If he took the activists seriously at all, he would have contacted them and asked to join in on the debate. These are activists who singlehandedly turned out more than 500 to Washington Crossing in April. They have tried to be engaged and host a candidate forum where 9 people interested in unseating Murphy showed up to discuss the issues in front of several hundred voters. These are not angry “throw them all out” tea partiers. They are perfectly willing to work within the system. Fitzpatrick was still unwilling to grace them with his presence.
  3. Fitzpatrick lost. Sure, he might be the most viable candidate, but it doesn’t change the fact that Fitzpatrick didn’t have what it takes to beat Patrick Murphy when he was a no-name upstart. He couldn’t do the job. Now he needs to convince voters why these fresh faces can’t do it. If he won’t talk to voters and disses the tea party organizers, he’s hardly convincing that he has a plan to unseat Murphy. It’s their energy that has made incumbent Democrats weaker than they’ve been in years. He should respect it and be willing to talk if he wants to prove he’s viable.
  4. Put some money on the table. If Fitzpatrick isn’t going to try and mobilize voter support, then he should be willing to show us what money he brings to the table. It better be an overflowing coffer for him to be goofing off with rumors about the race this late in the game. Murphy is a proven fundraiser, so Fitzpatrick better be willing and able to fight him on those terms. But showing us money on the table would involve doing things like updating a website and talking to voters. So I guess we can’t really look forward to it.

Given the performances last night, it’s not out of the question that Fitzpatrick may be a better candidate. But until he shows the voters a little respect, it’s not likely to end any better for him than it did in 2006. For that, I’d rather throw my personal support behind a fresh face who can begin building a political career out of this run.

12 Responses to “The 8th District Circus Candidate Forum”

  1. DAS says:

    Very insightful analysis. Good job.

  2. jo b. says:

    Lots of great info here. I agree that Fitzpatrick might have the most name recognition, but that doesn’t make him a great candidate, for the reasons you gave. It’s disappointing that he seems more intent on gumming up the race than actually running.

  3. Jay V says:

    Valid point on the 2nd amendment question. There was a solid second amendment question in (would you support an assault weapons ban in any form if was introduced into Congress) , but we had to triage it and some others given time constraints.

    2nd amendment is important and the candiates will be vetted on it at some point.

  4. Bitter says:

    It makes sense that a Second Amendment question didn’t make the cut, as Sebastian pointed out, it’s not exactly a high priority issue at the moment. We like our pet issue, but we realize that it is one issue of many.

    We really do appreciate the event. This is the kind of thing that the GOP should have been hosting on their own long before the need for a tea party movement. Based on the attendance, I would say that this group of tea party activists understands political reality and is truly serious about the issues. Snark in the post aside, we were both more optimistic about the future of conservative politics locally after watching the event.

    I’m not sure if I saw anyone quite to the caliber of very serious Congressional run against a major fundraiser, but I am trying to decide if there’s a favorite to get behind to lay the ground work for a solid political future. I may watch online for another week or two and then pick a favorite to help out.

  5. jo b. says:

    FYI, Jeff McGeary has just put up a basic website. Looks like more to come.
    http://mcgearyforcongress.com/

  6. Jay V says:

    You all should consider interacting with Kitchen Table Patriots (KTP). Very action oriented. The Forum was just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the website (below) and reach out to the leadership. Collaboration between like-minded individuals and groups is critical to defeat the Statists and Socialists.

    http://thekitchentablepatriots.org/

  7. Bitter says:

    On candidate links: The post will remain the same. This was the first big public appearance for most candidates, so whatever they had live at the time of publication is what gets linked. If they didn’t have a website ready for people to visit & learn more, or more importantly, for them to sign up to help, then that tells me something about their campaign. It’s not necessarily a sign of doom, but I want to watch who really focuses on putting together a real campaign. Murphy is good at this, whoever goes up against him should be, too.

    On organizations: We’ve covered events here before. In fact, coverage of the tea party events in and around Bucks have been some of the most popular posts of 2009, so we’re clearly pulling in the Google traffic on the subject.

  8. Lloyd says:

    Hey – there’s not many blogs covering the REAL politics – how about leaving out the drug-hip-oldlady stuff ? This is that genre’s third generation and it still smacks of 30 year old [irresponsible] junior high teachers telling the youth whats hip.

  9. Bitter says:

    Mr. Schneller – Jim, if I may be so bold – if you’re going to troll websites looking to piss in people’s sandboxes, why not stick to the birther sites you normally love so much?

    In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a big internet. And as much as you may hate the snark, there is truth in just about all of these observations. Most of the candidates have realized this and given up their races – some opting to endorse and some who chose not to.

    Besides, why don’t you stick to your own Congressional district. You don’t even live near the 8th.

  10. Lloyd says:

    I dont know why you’re revealing my name and identity-is that legal ?

    I commented with a constructive hope to make your blog more readable. You are accessible to youngsters. All you’ve done is add more unpleasantness, and so I bid your blog a solemn adieu.

    I ask – can you tell me if snowflakes has a general email for news tips, please email it to me or just post it here. Also, are you [removed for spambots].

  11. Sebastian says:

    That address above is fine for news tips, though, I’m taking it out so the spam bots don’t find it.

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