Allentown
73° F
Thunderstorms and Rain
Thunderstorms and Rain

U.S. Senate Republicans: 5 way race

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Apr 21 2012 08:26:23 AM CDT

Five candidates are on the ballot in the crowded Republican U.S.
Senate primary, with upstart tea party organizer Tom Smith threatening to snatch the nomination from the party-backed Steve Welch.

Most of the candidates are political novices, except for former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, who some experts say could make a more than respectable showing. Attorney Mark Scaringi and veterans advocate David Christian are also in the hunt.

Here's a look at the candidates and the issues they are spotlighting.

TOM SMITH

Smith, 64, is a former coal company executive who lives in Armstrong County, about 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. He's been able to raise a lot of money, and he's using it to air TV ads that carry his message and attack Welch.

Smith calls himself "a lifelong conservative," but Welch has hammered him in ads for having been a registered as a Democrat for 42 years (Smith changed his registration to Republican last August).

Smith says creating jobs is his top priority. Clean coal, drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale area and drilling for oil in the U.S. are ways of producing those jobs, and to bring down the cost of energy, Smith says.

He also wants to repeal the health-care reform law, and opposes amnesty for immigrants who came here illegally.

STEVE WELCH

Welch, 35, a drug industry entrepreneur, grew up and lives in Chester County. He has an engineering degree from Penn State University.

Welch's ads portray him as "a strong conservative," but Smith has pointed out that Welch switched parties in 2005 and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary.

However, Welch says he voted for John McCain in the 2008 election. He returned to the GOP in 2009, and his campaign manager says Welch never supported Obama's policies.

Welch portrays himself as a jobs creator. He touts one of the companies he founded as "a new model for launching technology companies," claiming to have helped 64 startups over the last four years.

Welch says he would balance the budget by placing a cap on spending and working to pass a balanced budget amendment. He also wants to simplify the tax code and repeal the heath-care reform law.

SAM ROHRER

Rohrer, 56, was born in Dover, Ohio, and earned a degree from Bob Jones University before moving to Berks County.

He entered the primary with perhaps the highest name recognition of all the candidates. Two years ago, he ran unsuccessfully for the gubernatorial nomination against Tom Corbett. He also logged 18 years of service in the state House, including 14 years as chairman of the appropriations committee.

Rohrer calls himself "a champion of government restraint." He has fought against tax increases and to eliminate school taxes, and has been a long-time supporter of the home schooling movement. For most of last year, he was state director of Americans for Prosperity.

Rohrer says as a senator he would try to balance the budget and cut the national debt. He also says the biggest obstacle to job creation is the government, which he says tells people what to do with their life and property.

MARC SCARINGI

Scaringi, 41, is a lawyer in Cumberland County who studied at Georgetown University before getting a law degree from Widener.

He was an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum from 1994 to 1996 and worked for state Attorney General Mike Fisher from 1996 to 2001, before starting his own law firm in 2001.

He says he favors a "limited constitutional government," and that his priorities include a balanced budget amendment, term limits, tax reform and an "America first" foreign policy.

DAVID CHRISTIAN

Christian, 62, was born in Gainesville, Fla., and raised in Bucks County, where he now lives. He became a highly decorated soldier after enlisting in the Army and serving in Vietnam, where he was shot in the chest and critically burned by napalm.

Christian graduated from Villanova and studied law at Rutgers. He has owned and operated several business ventures, and is president of a defense manufacturing company in Philadelphia.

He has spent much of his life advocating for veterans rights. He worked on veterans issues for the U.S. Department of Labor in the 1980s, and twice ran unsuccessfully for the House in the 1980s.

Christian calls himself "a Ronald Reagan Republican," and says the current high unemployment rate and economic uncertainty are his chief concerns.

He says he would work to reverse the "Jimmy Carter agenda" of the late 1970s that has been "repackaged" by President Obama.