Last month, smack-dab in the middle of the three week petition gathering season, the Democrat-controlled PA Supreme Court decided to ignore the Constitution, overstep their authority and redrew the boundaries of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressional Districts.
This threw the entire Republican Party into a tailspin as they scrambled to find and vet candidates for newly created Congressional Districts for which there was no incumbent. The 4th Congressional, which encompasses most of Montgomery County and a little of Berks, is such a district. Due to the poorly timed change, the petition deadline was extended to March 20 for candidates to file their petitions, on which they are required to get 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot. This usually takes a planned, coordinated effort with campaign volunteers circulating multiple petitions at petition signing events and door-to-door knocking efforts over the course of about three weeks. Miraculously, at least one Montco Democrat, Mary Jo Daley, apparently had the gift of foresight and filed her petitions for the newly drawn 4th Congressional a mere 24 hours after the map was released by the PA Supreme Court.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
In addition to Mary Jo Daley, Democrats Joe Hoeffel, Madeleine Dean and Shira Goodman have also announced their intention to seek the office.
Republican Candidates for the 4th Congressional District
MCRC (Montgomery County Republican Committee) sponsored three candidate forums for Republicans in advance of the endorsement convention on March 22. I attended one of these events on March 13. The following candidates spoke at this event: Art Bustard, Dan David, Kris Hart and Marina Kats.
Originally, MCRC had announced eight potential candidates but it appears that Ken Brier and Jim Dailey have dropped out. The remaining six candidates were billed to speak at the March 13 event, but only four showed up: Bill Boiston and Lisa Friebel were no-shows and no explanation was given for their absence. It should be noted that Lisa Friebel did show up to the Whitpain candidate forum held the following night on March 14, so whether or not she’s actually in the race right now is anyone’s guess.
One of those candidates– I’m not 100% sure which one, so I will not name names – showed up approximately a half hour late.
Time out for a mini-vent: To me, there is nothing ruder than being late for an appointment. Showing up late for a meeting, the primary purpose of which is to ask your audience for their support, is simply unconscionable and reflects a complete lack of consideration for your audience and potential supporters. In future events like this, can we please start on time and if the candidate is late and misses his/her time, so be it; their time is not more important than ours. Many people gave up their evenings to hear the case on why these folks deserve our support. Being prompt is the very least they can do to earn it.
While the other candidates left the room, each candidate was each given 5 minutes for their prepared remarks, then an opportunity to answer audience questions. As is usual for these types of events, the candidates were all asked the same questions:
- How will you get out the vote in the western part of the County?
- How will you overcome the Democrats registration advantage in Montco?
- How will you raise the funds necessary to run this campaign?
- Pro-Life, yes or no?
At the end of the meeting, all of the candidates were brought back on stage and the audience was permitted to ask further questions, but I am only including the answers to these four, plus my own conclusions, in the write-up below.
Marina Kats – The Woman
Prepared remarks: Kats is a Temple graduate and lawyer. She has been around the MCRC for quite some time and is a former candidate for the 13th Congressional District who ran against Allyson Schwartz. She utilized her five minutes mostly giving us her resume and talking about past races. A legal immigrant from the Ukraine, Kats is passionate about taking on illegal immigration and repealing Obamacare. Having emigrated from a Soviet-controlled country in 1979, Kats says she brings a unique appreciation of our system of government and a deep belief in Republican principles.
GOTV in the West? Republicans are mad and they will be motivated to vote. The West has been taken for granted and we need to have a ground game. We need people who are invested in the campaign. She will come out to the West and meet with committee people to build support
Overcome Registration Disadvantage: Joe Hoeffel is great for Republicans. Women will vote for a woman and the Democrats will not be able to say there are not enough women.
Fundraising? Her plan is to get everyone invested. Have everyone fund at small levels rather than a couple of large donors. She will not self-fund.
Conclusions: I generally liked what Kats had to say when she talked issues and not about her resume. But I felt her opening remarks were unorganized and she got unnerved and flustered when she was given the one-minute mark. I found her belief that a woman has an advantage by virtue of her sex to be a little naïve based upon my own personal experience (if there is anything Democrats hate more than a Republican man, it’s a Republican woman) and her plan for fundraising to be unrealistic. Much of her presentation focused on rallying the committee to help her.
Kris Hart – The “No Baloney” Guy
Prepared remarks: Kris Hart opened by reciting his Republican bona-fides: He went to George Washington University, was a page for Curt Weldon, worked for Jon Fox and became a Republican because of Fox’s mentoring. To illustrate this point, he pulled out the pocket Declaration of Independence/U. S. Constitution that Fox gave him years ago. He was out of politics for several years to run his own business (which I think was a convenience store or stores). His reason for running is that he feels it’s his civic duty. He wants to be a public servant, not a politician. His focus is on jobs, the economy and education. He is already writing bills, which he has published on his website. His tagline was “No More Baloney” from Washington, which he repeated several times.
GOTV in the West? Hart would talk about the issues: protecting our children and the Second Amendment. We need independents and cannot run hard right. We need to get the vote out.
Overcome registration disadvantage? He has the energy, vision and passion to get the job done. He is running to put forward ideas and get those things done, not for a position in Washington.
Fundraising? Hart wants to run against Joe Hoeffel. He will hire a professional fundraising company to raise money, plus he has a 600-page plan.
Pro-Life? No. Hart believes in abortion for cases of rape and incest and stated that Roe v. Wade is settled law.
Conclusions: It’s ambitious to put actual bills on your website and Hart did actually have binders as props he referenced to illustrate his assertion about his 600-page plan. He’s high energy, but that energy seems a little unfocused. He did not really answer the registration disadvantage question, and his negative answer to the pro-life question combined with his “abortion is settled law” statement earned him some heckles from the audience (“Dred Scott was settled law too,” A sentiment with which I can only agree). His answers to questions were meandering and there was a little too much name dropping and prop reliance for my taste.
Dan David – The China Guy
Prepared remarks: Dan David is a 25-year Montgomery County resident residing in Skippack and originally from Flint, Michigan. He has been a businessman for 30 years as a high level executive and for the last twelve years has owned own financial research firm. David spent much of his time talking about his fight against a financial threat from China and the lack of American laws in place to protect U.S. Citizens. David stated that investment banks are importing fraud from China and that it is not illegal for a Chinese businessman to steal from an American. He spent three years and $100,000 of his own money lobbying congress for change in the laws. He supports Trump and his initiatives. He claimed that he exposed $95 million in fraud in a local municipality. He closed his remarks with the statement that all local politics are global and the global economy is infecting us locally.
GOTV in the West? David said that he had recently earned the endorsement of the Berks County Republican Committee and he was the only candidate who showed up to the endorsement meeting. He will not ignore, or take for granted, the voters in the West. We cannot push people away.
Overcome registration disadvantage? He will face that challenge head on. David is an independent thinker and claims we need to talk to people with other points of view. He vowed to bring over Democrat and Independent votes. We cannot keep running the same candidates over and over and expect different results.
Fundraising? David has pledged to self-fund his campaign with $500M to $1 million of “seed money.” He already has a team in place and will use professional fundraising.
Conclusions: Though I found the China talk distracting and felt that David had trouble articulating this issue in terms that an average layman can understand, overall, he had the strongest presentation. Even if one doesn’t understand, or care, about the nuts and bolts of the China thing (and I think that will be the case with the vast majority of voters), it is clear he has been working within the morass of Washington for years. If unchecked, I think his focus on China will serve as a distraction; I believe that fighting for a cause by bubbling up an issue takes an enormous amount of time and energy and so does running for congress. I think he needs to pick what it is that he wants to do and pursue it. If that’s running for congress, then he needs to focus on that and fight his China battle once he gets there. Though I understand MCRC is sponsoring a screening of his documentary, “The China Hustle,” not every average Joe voter is going to take the time to see the movie to have the issue laid out in terms they can understand, let alone become emotionally invested in it. When he wasn’t talking about China, his ideas were solid, and its clear his organization is up and running. Most importantly, he has agreed to self-fund, which will make him attractive to MCRC, an organization that can’t fund anyone.
Art Bustard – The Local Guy
Prepared Remarks: Bustard began his address to the audience by stating he was still not 100% sure that he wanted to run, but that he wants to talk to us. Bustard believes that Congress’s #1 priority needs to be passing a Budget on time. As a past officer of MCATO (Montgomery County Association of Township Officials), Bustard has seen the trickle down impact of State and Federal regulations and delays in funding. Bustard has regional detailed knowledge of Montco and a grasp on the problems facing each local area. He believes we need to connect with voters by using empathy; the problems facing Eastern Montco are not the same in the West. Bustard wants to focus on how Government expansion has impacted and hurt local municipalities. He says we need more private sector jobs and not more government.
GOTV in the West? Bustard wants to create empathy in the minds of voters in the West and convince them that he cares about their issues.
Overcome registration disadvantage? Show that the Democrats don’t understand the problems of the voters. Talk in local areas. Engage on local issues.
Fundraising? Fundraising is a problem, and the main reason that Bustard has not committed to a run.
Conclusions: Bustard seemed to lose the audience immediately with his equivocating on his commitment to run. This statement later earned him some heckling, wherein the heckler correctly stated, “Shouldn’t you know by now if you are in or not?” Bustard was a multi-term Township Supervisor in Worcester who, citing “burn-out,” opted not to run for re-election in 2017, so where he’s found the energy to effectively participate in this kind of high-profile, national race is uncertain. As a former Supervisor myself, I can relate to and affirm a lot of Bustard’s points about State and Federal mandates and how the expansion of government is hurting things at the local level. I also agree that localizing this race is important in driving turnout in an incredibly diverse district such as Montgomery County, but that the ability to effectively localize this race is going to take three attributes that Bustard does not have: Herculean energy, an organized campaign and big dollars.
As mentioned previously, the MCRC endorsement meeting will be held in Lansdale on March 22.
Hopefully, this event will be a more efficient event than the one last month, which by all accounts, was a giant, unorganized and frustrating mess. Check-in tables were placed right at the doorways, causing an absolute crush of committee people waiting to check in, while there remained a huge amount of unused space behind the tables for the checkers. Ballots were missing and/or at the wrong tables and it was gridlock when committee members had to move from one line to the next when they found out their ballot was not at the correct table. Worse, the meeting was scheduled to start at 7pm, but it was not until after 8pm that MCRC could verify that they had a quorum. How hard can it be to organize ballots by name and make sure they are at the correct area’s table?