Vice President Pence stumps for Rick Saccone in Western Pennsylvania
Mary Lou Valle hoped Friday that she was watching the next president of the United States speak right in her hometown.
Valle of Bethel Park came with her husband, Leo, to watch Vice President Mike Pence stump for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone.
"I think some day Pence will make a good president," Mary Lou Valle said. "We'd like to see Trump for another four years and then eight years of Pence."
Pence's stop at the Bethel Park Community Center was intended to help Saccone become the next congressman from Pennsylvania's 18th District. He told the crowd that having Saccone in Congress would help end budget cuts to the military, pass an infrastructure bill, fix the immigration system and build a wall on the border with Mexico. He called Conor Lamb, Saccone's Democrat opponent in the race, "another rubber stamp for liberal Democrats."
"We need the Keystone State to send Rick Saccone to the Congress of the United States," Pence said. "He represents the best of Pennsylvania and the best of America."
Right off the bat stumping for Saccone. pic.twitter.com/C811pbsKQA— Aaron Aupperlee (@tinynotebook) February 2, 2018
Saccone is running against Lamb in a special election set for March 13 to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy. Murphy resigned last year after details of an affair he had became public, including the allegation that the pro-life Republican asked his mistress to get an abortion when he thought she was pregnant.
The campaign event at the Bethel Park Community Center was sold out, according to a listing on Eventbrite, but the room was about three-fourths full.
The event was free, according to the website. Supporters could pay $10,000 for a meet-and-greet session with Pence or $5,400 for to have a photo taken with the vice president, according to CNN, which obtained a copy of an invitation to the event .
At a private reception at about 1 p.m. at the community center, Pence raised about $250,000 for Saccone's campaign, said Marc Lotter, a communications adviser traveling today with the vice president.
The event forced the center to cancel bingo and line dancing for senior citizens .
The vice president spoke for about 23 minutes before leaving to speak about the administration's new tax law at an event organized by America First Policies at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. He gave President Trump credit for improving the economy and jabbed at Democrats who voted against the tax reform bill. He praised the military and veterans, asking anyone who has served to stand or raise their hands to thunderous applause. Pence said Trump restored accountability to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, helped veterans get the health care they need and put ISIS on the run.
"It's official. The war on coal is over," Pence said, a popular line in the room.
Pence kept most of his comments positive and in praise of Saccone and the work of President Trump. Several times he repeated things Trump had said about Saccone or passed along comments from the president. Trump has endorsed Saccone and briefly mentioned him in a speech he gave Jan. 18 at H&K Equipment Co. in North Fayette.
Val DiGiorgio, chair of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said Trump would be returning to Western Pennsylvania in a couple of weeks to campaign for Saccone.
Pence briefly dug into Lamb. He said that Lamb wouldn't say whether he supports the Second Amendment, a notion that drew boos from the crowd. Pence said what he does know about Lamb is that he didn't support the tax reform bill recently passed by Congress.
"And folks, that says everything you need to know on March 13," Pence said.
Lamb picked up his own endorsement this week. Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, visited Lamb's field office on Thursday in Carnegie.
Saccone spoke for only about two minutes before introducing Pence.
"This campaign is about something bigger than all of us," Saccone said. "It's about making America great again."
Jennifer McDowell of Mt. Lebanon and Karen Urso of Union Township came to protest Saccone outside the event. Saccone is Urso's representative.
"He preaches from a bully pulpit with a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other, and that scares me," Urso said.
McDowell lives in the 18th District that Saccone and Lamb are fighting to represent.
"I don't want him to be my representative," McDowell said of Saccone.
Jennifer McDowell and Karen Urso came to Bethel Park to protest Rick Saccone. "I don't want him to be my representative." McDowell, who lives in Mt. Lebanon, said. pic.twitter.com/DiGkXghqGS— Aaron Aupperlee (@tinynotebook) February 2, 2018
Joe Lundy, who works at Cleveland Brothers Equipment in Murrsyville, came to support Pence. He wore a "Make America Great Again" hat signed by the vice president.
Joe Lundy, who works at Cleveland Brothers Equipment, work his Make American Great Again hat signed by Vice President Pence. pic.twitter.com/VENaW5INeh— Aaron Aupperlee (@tinynotebook) February 2, 2018
Allegheny County Councilwoman Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, sat onstage while Pence spoke. Means has long admired Pence and was overjoyed to have him in her hometown campaigning for Saccone.
"He's the man. You can't ask for more," Means said. "He represents those values of Western Pennslyvania. Those are our values."
Means said it is important that Saccone, like Pence, is a man of faith and a man who doesn't shy from expressing it and talking about it. Knowing the two share religious beliefs with her gives her comfort.
"It's really important to me to have a person who is accountable to a higher being."
Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.