I was a little late getting there because I was visiting my brother in the hospital. He had grown suddenly ill after reading this blog, and doctors are flipping coins over whether he'll last the week. So I missed Ott's initial remarks. But several audience members made sure that I heard about it. Ott reportedly told this crowd of Allentonians, in Allentown, that the only time he gets to see one of them is when they're coming up through the court system.
Not terribly bright.
Not terribly bright.
That might play well on WAEB or at your local KKK, but did not go over well before the NAACP. Ott's one gift is his ability to communicate, so he must have had an off night.
The largely African American audience, to their credit, remained polite.
But after it was over, I got an earful myself. Fran Eddings, CEO of the PA STEAM project at Cedar Crest College, told me she wanted to remain positive, but was clearly upset by Ott. "That was an affront to me as an African American person," she said. "The people of Allentown are not as inept as some may think they are."
Ott was also asked to explain abstaining from voting for a Meals on Wheels grant for needy Lehigh County seniors. At the time he abstained, he said that Lehigh Commissioners are "the last line of defense for the taxpayer." He complained that the "Chinese communist government is fronting us money to feed 85 year old women in Lehigh County." So it's up to patriots like him to "exercise some restraint that the federal government seems incapable of exercising."
Tom Muller, who was driven to run for executive after being subjected to this kind of tea party pandering, objected that Ott's so-called reform team has a nasty habit of "talking about national problems and the national debt," calling it a "bunch of nonsense" on the local level.
What would he do?
"Yes, we definitely will feed that 85 year old woman in Allentown.
"I would do it every time."
When asked about the Veterans Mentoring Program in Lehigh County, Ott knew little about it. Muller had to explain that it was founded in 2011 to address issues faced by a growing number of veterans who get involved in the criminal justice system. It's a program championed by DA Jim Martin, one of Ott's favorite targets at budget time.
Though he had no idea what the program was, Ott made sure the audience knew that his grandfather stormed the beach at Normandy, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was ready to go to Japan.
He apparently thinks that veteran status is inherited.
Asked about their ability to play nice with others, Muller pointed out that, under former Executive Don Cunningham, he worked well with seven members of the Republican party. He credited Commissioners who actually read the material prepared for each meeting, and who took the time to call and discuss things. That stopped when the Ott block assumed power.
Ott told the audience not to "mistake the due process and deliberative part of our meetings for divisiveness." He then claimed that David Jones is his favorite Commissioner, in an effort to establish at least some connection with people he had already lost.
Ott's favorite Commissioner was not at the debate. But Brad Osborne, whom Ott voted to dump as Chairman, was there. So were three Ott supporters, planted strategically in the audience with iPads. These political operatives, paid or unpaid, filmed Muller every time he spoke, hoping to catch him in a goof.
When the candidates closed, Ott said he represents a different approach to government. It's one we've seen recently in Washington. He did not mention his work as a Wal Mart greeter or the jobs he quit along the way. Muller reminded the crowd that he actually has a background and some heavy duty experience, including managing Lehigh County for the past 8 years under three different Executives.
He told the crowd that if they support him, the election is November 5. If they support Ott, it's on November 12.
I think everyone in that room, save for Ott and his political operatives, will be voting on November 5.