Half of Northampton County is now represented by Matt Cartwright, a prominent attorney from the Scranton area. A Democrat, he can rely on heavy support from urban centers like Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Easton and the one Bethlehem precinct that he now represents.
Cartwright was successful two years ago in a re-election bid in which he was challenged by David "Doc" Moylan, a physician and Schuylkill County coroner who billed himself as "the cure for Congress." In Northampton County, Cartwright walked away with 52% of the vote.
Can a Republican beat him? Matt Connolly and Glenn Geissinger think so. Both are running for the Republican nomination. They were the headline event at a debate hosted by the Lehigh Valley Tea Party at a packed Se-Wy-Co Banquet Hall in Lower Saucon Township on April 7. .
Connolly, a retired race car driver who is now in the auto repair business, is no stranger to politics. Since 2010, he's run unsuccessfully for the state senate and Northampton County Council. He also ran for this seat two years ago, but was defeated in the primary by Doc Moylan. He lives in Bethlehem Township with his daughter and is on the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association's board.
Connolly claimed he's been involved in the tea party since 2009, and "it's been wonderful." He said this country is "under the thumb or boot of this Obama guy." He charged that President Obama was able to get Obamacare through Congress because he had a big SuperPAC behind him - "the mainstream media."
Geissinger was elected to Northampton County Council two years in a Republican sweep of all at-large seats Though he grew up in Whitehall, he now lives in Plainfield Township with his wife and two children. He
runs his own advertising business and served as a captain in a combat unit with the 82nd Airborne. He is also a Republican State Committee member.
According to Geissinger, government's primary role is to provide security. "People need to know they are safe," he said. He advocates rolling back government regulation that he claims is "absolutely killing us." He portrayed himself as a Congressman who will be "accountable to you."
Connolly referred to several fundraisers and said he will have the money needed because he will "inspire voters." He slammed Cartwirght. "He is not pro life. He is not pro Second Amendment. He claims to be pro family and pro worker, yet he is for Obama's amnesty. This is not a guy who inspires anyone."
Term Limits. Geissinger vowed he would serve no more than five terms. Connolly signed a pledge to "cosponsor and vote" for a U.S. Term Limits Amendment limiting a Congressman to three terms and Senator to two. But he is "not going to term limit myself," and until something that applies to everyone is adopted, refuses to bind himself individually.
Repeal 17th Amendment. - The 17th Amendment was adopted to ensure that U.S. Senators are elected by popular vote instead of by state legislatures. This proposal to repeal it has the support of Presidential candidate Ted Cruz and the Utah State Senate.
According to Connolly, one of the reasons this Amendment was adopted is because "the wannabe senators were bribing the state legislators in order to elect them." But he said Senators today "bribe every voter out there. And they do it with promises they can't keep, and they know they can't keep, and they buy votes by spending our grandchildren's money." He said that having state legislators pick U.S. Senators would bring back "another level of accountability to the people."
Geissinger agreed, saying that the 17th Amendment "destroyed the balance."
|Joanne Jackson (former Allentown School Board) and her husband|
Geissinger noted that elected local officials like himself "cannot escape your constituents. You go to the store with them. You go to soccer with them. You are everywhere with them because they are the people who voted for you, they are the people who are with you 24 hours a day." Geissinger said he'd be responsive because "I'm going to be in the district." He said he'd be "looking people in the eye and answering the hard questions."
Getting rid of Obamacare. - Geissinger noted that the repeal of Obamacare has already passed in the House, and that conservative Republicans are now fashioning a replacement bill. "I would be behind that in a heartbeat," said Geissinger. House Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to release the details of his alternative plan.
"You don't replace it with anything," complained Connolly. "You replace it with the free market principles that allow competition to eliminate the government overreach." He condemned any law "from the same federal government that was part of the problem in the first place."
The only thing that works is the government out of our health care, we need the government out of the relationship between the patient and the doctor. We need tort reform to lower the cost of health care, to lower the cost of drugs ... Healthcare, education and marriage are three words never mentioned in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights and we need to keep it that way."According to Connolly, the genesis of our health care problem is wage caps imposed during WWII, to which employers responded by offering benefits to make jobs more attractive. "That became the norm," he claimed, and the health insurance resulted in lawsuits by lawyers looking for insurance money.
Pro life stances. - Both candidates are solidly pro-life.
"I believe the child is innocent, regardless of the sins of the father or the irresponsibility of the mother," said Connolly His position with Project VoteSmart is that abortion should only be considered "when the women did not consent or if the mother's life is in danger." At the debate, he said that "I have yet to see a true medical situation where the baby must be aborted to save the life of the mother. If it exists, that's not going to be part of the legal system. That's going to be part of the medical system. That life issue will soon become the lifestyle of the mother."
Connolly added he won't allow his personal philosophy to be swayed. He claimed the true test for him will come when
"my party's leadership puts their arm around me and says, 'Matt, I know you probably don't want to vote for this because you're one of those conservative tea party guys, but this is how we get things done. You gotta' go along to get along.' No. I'm not going to work as hard as I've worked to get elected to become one of those guys who goes along to get along. I'm not going to be comfortable. I'm not even going to be popular. I don't even want to be popular with those people. I want my country and I want to get my country back."Geissinger said he spent five years of his life as an unpaid member of the clergy for his church. Both of his children were adopted as a result of teen pregnancies. "I-get-the-issue," he announced. But unlike Connolly, he does make exceptions because 64,000 women annually suffer from ectopic pregnancy "There are issues in which the life of the mother is in danger" He also pointed to pregnancies that result from rape. "Are you going to ask a 13 year-old girl who's been raped by her uncle to take the child to full term? Are you gonna' do that? I can't do that responsibly as a legislator."
Geissinger Defends NorCo Tax Hike
Prior to the debate, the audience was cautioned to ask only questions that both candidates could answer and avoid questions that single out any one candidate. But that's precisely what one person, festooned in a Donald Trump sweatshirt and a very tiny pistol, did. She disguised her question as a concern over the federal deficit, but then slammed Geissinger "for voting for a tax hike in your first year as a County councilman to beef up the surplus." She wondered whether there would be "more of the same" in Washington.
Geissinger had an answer.
"Here's what happened. We came in with a $19 million structural deficit. We only had $20 million in the bank. We had a choice. Violate an ordinance and not vote for the tax increase and get in the back with the Democrats and say, 'We hope it works out.' Or, get together with other good tea party members like Hayden Phillips and come up with a bill that put that money in a lock box. We asked each family in Northampton County to contribute, on the average, $1 per week to solidify our financial position, to save our credit rating and to give us time that we needed to turn things around. We did it. We turned things around. Thirty-seven million dollars returned to the general fund in two years, and the second year, I voted against the tax increase. We needed to find a way to cut expenses, and that's what I did here and that's what I'll do there."Balancing the Budget. - Connolly said he'd start by nixing the automatic increases in programs that go on year after year. Geissinger added that a family is unable to last long if it spends $50,000 every year but only takes in $40,000, and must look to cut expenses He pointed to Lou Barletta, who in Congress has pressured the General Services Administration to negotiate leases that potentially could save billions over the long term. For example, people with 1500 sq ft would see that space reduced to 150 sq ft.
Cutting Federal Agencies - Geissinger said he'd reform the Veterans Administration, which employs 270,000 people.Connolly would eliminate the Department of Education and slammed the EPA as a collection of "unelected bureaucrats with no accountability."