Republicans and tea partiers across the U.S. aren’t happy with the direction of federal government, a fact on full display during a candidate’s meet-and-greet put on by Mercer County Republicans Thursday night in Hempfield Station One.

About 150 people showed up to see the six Republicans facing off in the May 18 primary to decide who runs in November against U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie, D-3rd District.

So, what did they have to say?

“I think Kathy Dahlkemper needs to go home,” said Steven M. Fisher, 51, a Cochranton health insurance salesman.

“I’m not going to work with Obama. I will be going there to cut him off at the knees, to make sure he doesn’t do anymore damage to this country of ours,” said Clayton Grabb, 45, a Butler pharmaceutical salesman.

And, “I do not think we would be in this trouble if people like us had run for office before,” said Mike Kelly, 51, a Butler car dealership owner.

Those three lines gathered notable applause in a room warm to the six candidates and their small-government, anti-incumbent views. None of the six have prior political experience – much like Mrs. Dahlkemper before she ran in 2008.

The candidates share a common philosophy on all the boilerplate conservative positions: They favor tax cuts, small government, less spending, are pro-life and support “traditional values.”

But the candidates have raised questions about who is most likely to keep those principles in Washington, D.C., and who will be the best candidate to unseat Mrs. Dahlkemper in November.

“You got to have a strong stomach, and you got to be able to stand tall, and you got to be able to deliver when the times are tough,” Kelly said.

Grabb, meanwhile, emphasized his time in the U.S. Navy and said he felt “called” to serve. He said the U.S. is a Christian nation on the ropes because government has turned a deaf ear, and said God will use people, including the tea partiers he has said he identifies with, to restore it.

Ed Franz, 48, a Conneatville hourly worker at General Electric Corp. in Erie, said he’s a longtime conservative with 20 years of campaign experience who is tired of politicians forgetting who elected them.

Franz warned the party voters that unless a strong conservative, like himself, wins the primary, tea party sympathizers could support a conservative third party candidate.

Paul Huber, 65, a Meadville businessman who said he’s made multi-million dollar payrolls, focused on his multi-part, conservative economic plan and two decades of work with economic development agencies in the region.

Huber may suffer politically for being registered as a Democrat until last spring, though he says he’s a “life-long pro-life, social, and fiscal conservative.”

Fisher promised “common sense” government and Dr. Martha Moore, 52, a Sandy Lake family doctor, emphasized her background as both medical doctor and certified public accountant.

Issues like immigration, in the wake of Arizona’s new enforcement policy, also came up. Kelly urged the audience to call Mrs. Dahlkemper to give her an earful about immigration.

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