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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kelly vs. Dahlkemper in Mercer County

Yesterday, AARP hosted a candidate forum in Hermitage, PA where Republican candidate Mike Kelly took on Democrat incumbent Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper. I attended the event along with a few hundred of my closest friends. I have been interested to see the two candidates take on the issues face to face, and today’s event achieved that perfectly.

While I don’t have the time to devote to outlining all of the details of the event, I’d like to focus on a number of highlights . . . from start to finish.

The Start

The debate began with a coin toss. Mike Kelly chose heads and won. It was his option on who would make the first opening statement. Mike said “Ladies first”. It was cute, but many of us laughed out loud. We all know that this is NOT a race that involves any type of chivalry, so the attempt was laughable.

Kathy Dahlkemper’s opening statements outlined her achievements from her first 20 months in office. She mentioned securing Medicare, improving health care for seniors, and attempting to secure Social Security. Kathy also stated that she didn’t like the “direction that our country was going” and she felt that we need to invest in our children and invest in infrastructure and move forward . . . rather than moving back to the near collapse of our economy. For a minute . . . just a minute . . . she sounded like a TEA Partier. Hmmmm.

Mike Kelly’s opening statement started with “I’m not here as a politician”. I laughed out loud. He went on to say that he would be speaking from the heart today because he, too, is concerned. He highlighted his thoughts by saying things like “things are not good” and “the future is not rosey”. He rallied the TEA Partiers in the crowd by saying that it isn’t “We the People” anymore . . . it is “We the Government”. In closing he stated “the beneficiary should be the American people . . . not a Party”. For a minute . . . just a minute . . . he sounded like an Independent. Hmmmmm.

The Middle

The questions started with predetermined questions from AARP including topics like the economy, stabilizing Social Security, Medicare, and the deficit.

The line of questioning then moved to questions that were submitted by attendees of the forum. Those questions ranged from Cap and Trade, farming, education, tort reform, and international relations.

The topics were diverse, but the answers to the questions from both candidates were extremely interesting. Not so much in what they said but how they said it . . . if you know what I mean.

My Scoring

To explain and rate the general conversation, allow me to provide a few examples and score some of the highlights of the debate accordingly:

Kathy Dahlkemper claimed that the problems that we have were there before she was elected . . . Kelly responded by saying “don’t blame Bush”. [+1 for Kelly]

SCORE: Kelly 1 point; Dahlkemper 0 points

Kathy Dahlkemper stated that Social Security is the only program that never contributed one cent to the national debt and, instead, it is a source to borrow from. She feels that it needs to be protected in a “lock box” . . . which received groans from the crowd (including myself). [-1 for Dahlkemper]

SCORE: Kelly still 1 point; Dahlkemper -1 points

In response to a question regarding the recent cut in Medicare payments by 21%, Mike Kelly blamed health care reform legislation. Kathy Dahlkemper had to explain that Mike obviously didn’t understand the question as the change in Medicare had nothing to do with the recent health care legislation bill that was passed. [+1 Dahlkemper]

SCORE: Kelly still 1 point; Dahlkemper 0 points

Regarding the deficit, Dahlkemper stated that she is a Blue Dog Democrat and believes in fiscal responsibility . . . and we all laughed. [-1 Dahlkemper]

SCORE: Kelly still 1 point; Dahlkemper -1 point

In response to the same question regarding the deficit, Kelly said “We need to hold elected officials accountable to the people . . . not accountable to the Party”. To this I say “Bravo”, and once again Kelly sounds (for just one minute) like an Independent and not a Republican. [+1 Kelly]

SCORE: Kelly 2 points; Dahlkemper -1 point

In response to Cap and Trade, Kelly didn’t answer the question. [-1 Kelly]
Dahlkemper’s response is that she voted against Cap and Trade [+1 Dahlkemper]

SCORE: Kelly still 1 point; Dahlkemper 0 points

In an interesting twist, Kelly felt it necessary to say that Dahlkemper only voted for Cap and Trade at 5 minutes before midnight after making certain that her Party had the necessary votes to pass it. For this, Mike Kelly loses points as it was an unnecessary jab and it made him look petty

SCORE: Kelly 0 points; Dahlkemper 0 points

In response to a question regarding helping farmers, Kelly pointed out that a big problem is the death tax. [+1 Kelly]
Dahlkemper, on the other hand, said that the death tax is fair is not problem with a little tax planning. Ugh. Really! Seriously? [-1 Dahlkemper]

SCORE: Kelly 1 point; Dahlkemper -1 point

Something odd happened during the question regarding tort reform. Dahlkemper stated that tort reform is actually a state issue, but in some strange twist the conversation turned to “Cash for Clunkers”. In the end, Kelly explained that $600,000 in “cash for clunkers” money went through his dealership and was paid TO customers. He stated that he was not a beneficiary of the stimulus money. Kathy Dahlkemper, however, correctly stated that he was a beneficiary of the profits generated from the increased business that came from “cash for clunkers”. Mrs. Dahlkemper clearly won the argument and earned a point. [+1 Dahlkemper]

SCORE: Kelly still 1 point; Dahlkemper 0 points

The End

In the closing comments, Mike Kelly explained that it comes down to “faith and trust”. He stated the “we have lost faith in the people that represent us”. He explained that they don’t vote for us but vote with their party. (once again . . . for just a minute . . . Kelly sounds more like an Independent than a Republican). He explained that this leads to a lack of trust. He said that when he comes home from Washington he wants to say “I voted the way my people told me . . . not my Party”.

For this Mike earns another point in my book [+1 Kelly]
SCORE: Kelly 2 points; Dahlkemper 0 points

In Dahlkemper’s closing comments, she stated that there are two things that she looks at when she votes. (1) her conscience (2) her constituents. It all sounds nice as a sound bite, but she seemed to offend a huge number of her constituents with her health care vote and it never seemed to bother her conscience a bit. I won’t discount her points for it, but it makes me say “Hmmmmm”.

However, in a horrible display of lack of self control, Mike Kelly made a series of annoyed faces in reaction to many of Dahlkemper’s remarks and markedly so during her closing remarks. I found the move distasteful and I have to discount a point for it [-1 Kelly]

Final Score

In the end, Kelly earned 1 point, and Dahlkemper ended up with 0.

Comments and Suggestions (even though no one asked for them)

Dahlkemper looked good. She looked calm, cool, collected, and confident. She held her own and kept her composure. If she can maintain this, she will do well. When she gets shaken, she makes mistakes. Mike managed to do it to her once during the debate, and the general anger of the crowd seemed to concern her (and rightly so). This could be her weakness.

Mike looked nervous, flushed, angry (something I’ve warned him about on multiple occasions), and (at times) frustrated. He needs to calm down and keep his composure. He needs to be the “loveable teddy bear” that we all like so much, and his alter ego (the “angry football player”) needs to stay tucked away for the next few months. If he can do this he will do VERY well. If not, he will self destruct.

What did I like?

I enjoyed seeing that Dahlkemper made attempts to sound like a fiscal conservative, although actions speak louder than words. So far she has demonstrated that she is only a fiscal conservative in the press . . . but not in real life.

I enjoyed hearing Kelly make numerous statements that it is about “We the People” and NOT the Party, but again . . . actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, Mike has demonstrated that he is all about “the Party” and he is prepared to march with the GOP (even if it is off the next cliff). Why? Because that is where the money is.

Most of all, I think it is really funny that everyone wants to paint themselves as a "fiscal conservative Independent”. Unfortunately, we all know that there is only ONE of those in this area . . . and SHE is running for State Senate!



  1. Why is the Erie Debate suddenly cancelled and Kelly going to D.C.? Was he "summoned"? To get his "marching orders"?

  2. Yesssss.

    For those that are unaware, there was a debate scheduled for today in Erie by AARP (the same group that sponsored Monday's debate). Yesterday it was announced that Kelly had another engagement (a fundraiser in DC for some very worthy cause). However, Dahlkemper's camp is going to beat Kelly over the head with it . . . AND RIGHTLY SO!

    At this point in the campaign, there is NO REASON to cancel a debate (outside of a death or severe illness in the family). At the point that Kelly backed out, he has proven that he is afraid to debate and he is on the run . . . AND he demonstrated this IN ERIE OF ALL PLACES!

    This may be a sign of a serious problem with Kelly. His performance on Monday was less than stellar, and he (and the people in his camp) may have realized that. They may be frightened to debate Dahlkemper on her home turf in Erie because the crowd will be skewed in her favor. Perhaps Mike can't handle the heat.

    Regardless, this is BIG NEWS, and Dahlkemper's camp is right to make the most of it.

    All I can say is Hmmmmmmmm!

  3. Kelly did the same thing by missing the Butler Co. Debate in April in Cranberry Twp. and also the one at the Radisson in Mercer Co. before the primary in May.

  4. All I can think is that we the citizens will be represented by most likely Dumb..Dahlkemper and not Dumber..Kelly. We are lost. Both candidates suck.

  5. Before the Primary it was exciting to know that we had so many great options in the six candidates that were fighting for the Republican nomination. When Kelly won and went into hiding I was concerned. When he came out of hibernation as a part of the dreary Phil English machine, I was disappointed. Now, with less than 2 months before the General Election, I seriously wonder if Kelly is CAPABLE of beating Dahlkemper.

    Again I say Hmmmmmm.


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