By Nick Hildebrand
Herald News Editor
THIRD DISTRICT —
Third District U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly faces challenger Missa Eaton on the November ballot, but the incumbent Republican appears to be running against a bigger Democratic target.
Eaton, formerly a Penn State psychology professor, doesn’t seem to be on Kelly’s radar as his congressional office and campaign gear up for the upcoming political battle, but President Obama, his administration and perceived agenda are, as a series of recent news releases, op-ed pieces and television appearances by Kelly demonstrate.
In recent weeks, while Eaton has been taking potshots at “Millionaire Mike” and the Republican “war on women,” Kelly has been taking on Obama. He has written in a pair of essays for online publications about the overreach of government that inspired him to run for office -- the GM bailout -- and Obama’s disdain for small town values evidenced by the health care law’s contraception mandate.
He’s blasted the administration’s support of green energy companies as an expensive and possibly corrupt boondoggle and voted for a proposal to open up more federal land to gas and oil exploration to combat what he calls Obama’s efforts to “stifle” domestic energy and job creation.
And last week, events put Kelly near the center of the latest controversy surrounding the Obama administration and Congress.
Kelly is a member of the House Oversight Committee that voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over the Department of Justice’s refusal to provide more documentation about the administration’s response to Fast and Furious, the botched “gunwalking” operation that was intended to track firearms that were bought illegally here and sold to criminal gangs in Mexico but ended up losing some of the weapons.
Republicans on the committee suspect that Holder and the White House knew the operation had failed, fatally, and attempted to cover up their role. Some suggest the entire program was a sinister attempt to garner support for gun control laws.
Kelly’s spot on the committee and reputation as quotable landed him on a Fox News panel last weekend before the contempt vote, where he explained why he thinks the investigation is important.
“As a father and grandfather,” Kelly said he was moved by the plight of the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whose death has been linked to a gun connected to the operation. “We have to get to the bottom to guarantee them that it will never happen again.”
Kelly said the standoff with Holder was about accountability and accused the attorney general of stonewalling.
Kelly and others on the committee deny charges that they’re engaged in a political witchhunt. “Truth is not a partisan issue. We want to get the answers that not only the Terry family deserves but the American people deserve. This is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue,” Kelly told the Washington Times online audience.
Eaton, contacted by The Herald after the committee’s contempt vote, took a different view, calling the move “political gamesmanship residents in western Pennsylvania have become tired of over the last couple of years.”
ä Speaking of Eaton, the Democratic challenger, followed up the grand opening of her campaign office in Sharpsville this week with a press release designed to downplay what’s sure to be a financial advantage on Kelly’s part. At the last reporting, before the primary in April, Kelly had raised more than $600,000 and Eaton a little more than $45,000. The next filing date is in July.
Eaton touted her “grassroots” support and vowed to offset the funding disparity with what her campaign manager called “good old-fashioned campaigning.”
“Elections are won with a strong platform and the determination to knock on doors each and every day. The good people of the 3rd Congressional District are tired of money buying representation in Washington,” Eaton said.
ä After reading a bunch of stories last week about the budget process in Harrisburg, one wonders what Democrats in the General Assembly have been up to. Nearly every story has noted that the budget talks are being conducted behind closed doors by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and House and Senate Republican leaders.
They’ve been able to come up with a plan that raises spending ever so slightly and holds the line on taxes, provides taxpayer funded scholarships for kids in struggling schools, eliminates cash assistance to the poor and disabled and is likely to include a massive tax credit for Shell’s proposed “cracker” plant, all without the help of Democratic lawmakers.
With clear majorities in the House and Senate, the Republicans don’t really need the Democrats to sign off on anything, but it’s interesting that the state that has some claim to being the crucible of American Democracy is now an example of one-party rule.
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