With a field of seven Republicans in the 4th Congressional District sharing much of their ideology, York Rotary debate moderator Mike Summers asked the men to distinguish themselves during a luncheon at the Yorktowne Hotel Wednesday.
Their answers demonstrated that, common ideology aside, Republican voters have a pretty diverse field of personalities from which to choose in the April 24 primary.
Ted Waga, a police officer, said his law enforcement background has given him special skills to cope under pressure, including an incident in which a "six-(foot)-five mental patient" threatened to take his gun and kill him with it.
The youngest candidate in the race, Eric Martin said he can't pass problems onto the next generation like the other candidates because "I am the next generation."
Kevins Downs had lost faith in the United States, he said, but he wants to restore it for his children. Mark Swomley said he's the only candidate with international business experience.
State Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, said he "term-limited" himself in the state House, and his temperament, experience and judgment are qualities that set him apart.
County Commissioner Chris Reilly boasted his experience while serving on the county board, saying he has already put in place many of the cost-reducing measures he would take to Washington, D.C.
Attorney Sean Summers said Reilly and Perry, whom he tried to paint as career politicians, sometimes "cringe" when he approaches the mike. He said people should vote for "a politician" if they want to do what the established party tells them to do, but they should vote for him if they want someone "to shake things up."
Last week, the Rotary hosted Democratic candidates Ken Lee and Harry Perkinson. Mike Summers, a Rotarian who is of no relation to the candidate, said the debates were held to inform the organization's voting members.
Questions were submitted by Rotary members.
The most confrontational moments of the Republican debate came early on and courtesy of Sean Summers, who used his opening remarks to bring up Perry's 2002 felony charges for tampering with public records.
Summers said "someone" challenged his integrity, saying he "mischaracterized" Perry's charges at a previous debate.
Perry's record was expunged after he completed the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders. He has maintained that he was accused of falsifying discharge monitoring reports for the state's Department of Environmental Protection after he, through his contracting business, unknowingly accepted a job with a poorly run sewer plant.
Perry later used some of his opening to counter the remarks, saying he was the one who reported the problems, but he ended up being charged.
"Sometimes, bad things happen to good people," he said.
He stressed he "did the right thing" and reported the issue, that his record is clear, and that - as an Iraq veteran - he has since been issued top security clearance by the U.S. government.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436, email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @YDYorkCounty.