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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sam Bennett: "I am the Very Embodiment of the Change People Want."

When I arrived at the HamFam at 7:30 yesterday morning, Democratic congressional candidate Sam Bennett was already seated at a table in the back. As one of her most severe critics, I half-expected a knee to the groin, but she was very friendly from the start to finish of what turned out to be a three-hour interview.

She started things off by telling me a little bit about herself, including the confession that she was originally an evil Republican. She switched to Democrat when she first ran for Allentown Mayor against Roy Afflerbach, explaining there's really little difference between the views of New Jersey Republicans and Pennsylvania Democrats.

She believes Congress is "out of step with where our country is going. It's blindingly clear that we can do a lot better than we are doing right now." After the last congressional race, in which last minute Democratic nominee Charles Dertinger garnered 47% of the vote despite being outspent 23 to 1, she decided it was time to take on Congressman Charlie Dent herself. She noted Pa.'s 15th congressional district is one of only seven districts whose voters went with Kerry but rejected a Democratic congressman.

She plans to change that.

Although taking pains to make clear that Charlie Dent is a "nice guy" and that they both attend the same church, she also took a few shots. She's disturbed that Dent gets paid and also gets free health care. "That boy is double dipping!" She even questioned his personal finances. "Charlie Dent has suddenly become wealthy since he became a Congressman. How has that happened? Who is he representing here?"

"We need leadership. He's no leader. He's a nice guy, but he's no leader."

"I am the very embodiment of the change people want. I am not a career politician. I am a community leader."

My first series of interview questions will detail the nuts and bolts of her campaign, as she sees it.

24 comments:

A.J. Cordi said...

"I am the very embodiment of the change people want."

Let it be known that Sam Bennett is not the change this person wants - nor many others.

That pisses me off that she would even claim that.

Greg Palmer said...

Dertinger got 43.5 of the vote; the Dems have tried to spin that higher by citing that Dent only got 53%. Greta Brown actually made up the difference.

Anonymous said...

I am not a career politician.

That's right. You have to win an election to be one of those.

I am a community leader.

That is debatable.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Sorry I did not get to post this question last week, and I did not get to read all the comments, but I think with Mother's Day approaching you could have asked her about how she manages running for office, being involved in the community, and I believe she has a very young child at home, and other kids. How does she manage career/family? Maybe some would see this as a soft ball question, but it really speaks to who she is as a woman, and qualities as a leader and manager.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Mrs. Dottie,

That is very much a softball question in my eyes, but I would have presented it had you posed it.

Bennett did mention her 5 year old son and called him a "blessing" at one point.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, sounds like you got another Dent supporter in Greg Palmer. Are you going to question Charley Dent in the same manner as you have Sam Bennett? And if so, when, and can we submit questions? Ia AJ Cordi on your staff, as he seems slanted toward Dent, regardless of how Bennet answers any question? Is Cordi your PR guy? I bet he would be fun to work for.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) I have never met either Greg Palmer or AJ. Since Greg is at Keystone Politics, I presume he is an ardent Democrat.

2) I do plan a similar interview for Dent, and will ask my readers for help with questions just like I did with Bennett.

michael molovinsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think Sam's point was that 47% of voters in 2006 voted against Dent, despite Dent spending lots-o-money to unfairly bash his opponent.

Anonymous said...

Also, Sam won nearly 3 times the votes in this primary than Charlie Dent won in his first congressional primary (also a presidential year).

Granted, Charlie was contested in the primary, but I still think the number is significant.

Anonymous said...

She's disturbed that Dent gets paid and also gets free health care. "That boy is double dipping!" She even questioned his personal finances. "Charlie Dent has suddenly become wealthy since he became a Congressman. How has that happened? Who is he representing here?"

What does she mean by "double dipping"? Is Dent the only congressman who has this arrangement? If elected, is she saying she will not accept the congressional health care coverage plan?

Considering Bennett suddenly started receiving a $100,000+ salary from POM when it became clear she was going to run for congress (and considering the fallout that move produced), maybe she should be careful when insinuating things about Dent's income. If what she is hinting at is true, she should let someone else do the finger-pointing.

That said, I'd like to know what kind of wealth Dent has suddenly fallen into. Please put that on your list of questions for the congressman when you speak with him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will certainly ask Charlie about that. His 2006 financial disclosure fails to substantiate that allegation or the insisuations that accompany it. But that's what she said.

Anonymous said...

"What does she mean by "double dipping"? Is Dent the only congressman who has this arrangement? If elected, is she saying she will not accept the congressional health care coverage plan?"

I remember an article in the Morning Call about 6 months ago that detailed several US Representatives from PA who used to be State Senators. Turns out that the length of service in the state senate made them eligible for STATE health insurance. Dent all foregoes federal health benefits and take state health insurance (which is more generous and more costly to taxpayers).

So Dent is in effect taking benefits from PA taxpayers b/c they are more generous, and salary from US taxpayers. I think this is the line of reasoning that allows Bennett to say Dent is double dipping.

at a time when elected officials taking all the perks of office and the likelihood that POM will come up several times, it's fair game. If Dent's campaign plays rough, it needs to expect Bennett to return the favor.

Anonymous said...

I also saw on the disclosure form that dent has deferred between $50k-100k in pension from the state (did he vote for the pension increase?). Since he deferred that income, when will he collect it? Is he deferring income from his state senate and state house terms, effectively creating two deferred incomes that he will be able to collect in the future? Will he collect federal pension when he is no longer a congressman?

And why defer the pension income but not the health insurance? Is he trying to have the best of all worlds?

Personally, I don't care what the answers are, but since it was pretty much open game on one candidate, may as well declare the same on the other candidate. Frankly, I wish we would have had the decency to keep the conversations to the issues themselves.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Personally, I don't care what the answers are, but since it was pretty much open game on one candidate, may as well declare the same on the other candidate. Frankly, I wish we would have had the decency to keep the conversations to the issues themselves.

That's where you and I differ. First, I have no decency. Second, I think questions like the ones you just presented are highly relevant. If a public official is gaming the system, we need to know. If Dent has become obscenely wealthy cince becoming a Congressman, it's right to ask why. It does go both ways. And I will certainly be asking some questions along those lines.

When people say they want to talk about "the issues," do they decide what those issues are, too? I happen to think questions that shed light on a candidate's character are relevant. That's why I disagree with those who lambasted the media for the questions at the last Obama-Clinton debate. In addition to learning about the economy or health care, they want to know about these things, too. It's a lot harder for a candidate to BS when it comes to this.

A.J. Cordi said...

Ia AJ Cordi on your staff, as he seems slanted toward Dent, regardless of how Bennet answers any question? Is Cordi your PR guy?

I had no involvement with this interview, so what's your beef with me?

I don't like Bennett; I don't like what she says, I don't like how she's answering the questions, and I especially don't like nor appreciate the way she operates. She may be a nice person, but that doesn't make her qualified for office.

I will support Dent in the upcoming election. When someone better than him comes along, I will support him or her.

If you have a problem with that, take it up with me instead of taking cheap shots at Bernie.

Anonymous said...

"Dent has suddenly become wealthy . . ."

Ah, but isn't Ms. Bennett the candidate living in in "Historic Benner Mansion?"

Anonymous said...

You may not like Dent's choosing a better health plan for his family, or how he decides to utilize the retirement/pension options he's entitled to as a former employee of the commonwealth, but is any of it illegal? Has he taken more than he is allowed, as "double dipping" implies? Has he made claims to the contrary or in error regarding his personal finances?

Anonymous said...

I feel Dent has opened the door to people questioning the perks be takes as a public official. The fact is he does take the state health insurance and federal pay. He is defering pensions etc...

Now the argument is if he used his talents in the private sector he would be making more money so the perk comes with the investment to be a public servant.

This would usally be a non starter, but Dent opened the door when they commented on Bennett's POM salary.

So he will have to answer for it this time.

Either way he is still gonna win reelection.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

As a Democrat why aren’t you being am good team player like the rest of us, remember it Democrats good and Republicans bad. Please try to remember this in the future.


Allentown Democrat Voter

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:46, how does it feel to be a sheep, blindly following a party instead of thinking for yourself?

I am a conservative independent, and I vote for the person I think is best no matter the party. I voted for Ed Rendell twice because, even though he and I disagree often, I felt he was a much better choice than anyone the Republicans put up in the races.

You also have to remember, there are conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. Vote for the candidate that best fits your beliefs and values, not the candidate based on a label.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:07,

Anon 9:46 was playin' you. He was creating the impression that A-town Dems just blindly pull that D lever. He was trying to make a point, but I'm pretty sure he was just having fun. There are very few straight party ticket voters left.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I hope he was playin' me! But I know too many - on both sides - who still "pull the lever" for either party. I admit most that I know are older (i.e., my parents who are in their 70's).

Also, I was disappointed by the fact that Jenn Mann appeared to run her campaign based on the fact that she's a woman, Hillary is a woman (I think!), and that people would vote for her simply because of that. Very disappointing....

A.J. Cordi said...

"All Democrat" and "All Republican" shouldn't be an option at the polls. The people that chose these options don't know who they're voting for.