14th District GOP candidates Saccone, Reschenthaler stump at DiSalvo's Station in Latrobe
Many of the Westmoreland County Republicans attending a meet-and-greet with congressional primary contenders Rick Saccone and Guy Reschenthaler on Thursday night in Latrobe saw their choice as youth vs. experience.
The two candidates appeared at the same event for the first time in their campaigns for the newly drawn 14th Congressional District in the May 15 primary election, speaking separately to the crowd at DiSalvo's Station in Latrobe.
The 14th District represents Washington, Fayette, Greene and part of Westmoreland counties.
Reschenthaler, 34, a state senator and former Navy prosecutor from Jefferson Hills, could take new ideas and creative solutions to a divided Washington, said Mike O'Bartos, 59, a retired Unity supervisor.
“He'll think outside the box a lot more than I think Rick (Saccone) would,” O'Bartos said.
Saccone, 60, a state representative and former Air Force officer from Elizabeth Township, is a “tried and true” conservative and Christian, said Peggy Sanner, 65, a county committeewoman from Youngwood.
Many among the crowd of a few dozen supported Saccone in his unsuccessful campaign against Democrat Conor Lamb in the March 13 special election to replace former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy.
Several said they were still undecided between the two Republicans, who espouse many of the same positions on issues.
Both showcased their conservative credentials, sharing their A and A+ ratings from the NRA.
Both underscored their military service. Both said their work in Harrisburg shows they will be effective dealmakers in Washington.
State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, who has endorsed Reschenthaler, urged the crowd to “try to think about who's going to win this race … look at their records.”
Saccone made the case that he collected support during his last campaign that will carry him through the primary and help him win against the Democratic nominee in the fall.
“Many of you have already voted for me … I need you to move on from the last race and move in to this race,” he said.
Reschenthaler, who has said Saccone's razor-thin loss to Lamb in a district that heavily favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton shows his weakness as a candidate, said that his youth and energy will help him win in the fall and in future elections.
The campaign became contentious two weeks ago when Reschenthaler said in an interview with KDKA that Saccone had embarrassed Southwestern Pennsylvania Republicans with his loss to Lamb.
Saccone responded by saying that the interview showed Reschenthaler “fancies himself,” while saying his campaign would stay positive.
Saccone faced criticism for raising much less money from individual donors than Lamb, while outside groups spent millions more supporting Saccone than Lamb.
Reschenthaler said Thursday that “I will raise my own money, and I'm very proud of that. And I will attack in this election, and I will defend this seat because it's our seat and we're going to take it back.”
Saccone said in an interview after his speech Thursday night that he thought the national attention on the race impeded his ability to campaign the way he likes to. With fewer interviews with national media outlets and less distraction, he said he will do more door-knocking and grassroots campaigning.
Issues they're stressing
Saccone repeated many of his priorities from his special election campaign, in which he said his agenda includes lowering taxes, reducing government spending and regulation, repealing and replacing Obamacare, supporting conservative Supreme Court justices, rebuilding the nation's military, protecting unborn children and reforming the VA Health Care System.
Reschenthaler said his first priority if elected would be national defense, citing his experience prosecuting terrorists in Iraq.
His second would be economic growth, which he said would benefit by ramping up natural gas exports. By putting “Russia on its heels,” he said, “we are becoming the hegemonic power in Europe.”
His third priority, he said, would be border security. He said this week he supported Trump sending the U.S. military to the border with Mexico. He said security needs to be increased to reduce drug sales and human smuggling.