In the end, Harry Perkinson was the only candidate who got some boos. But the Democratic nominee in the 4th Congressional District race probably knew he had it coming after he told a crowd of about 100 tea party activists that "supply side" economics caused the recession. This was moments after he asserted that people "obviously" aren't being taxed enough or there wouldn't be a deficit.
But the debate sponsored by the 912 Patriots, a tea party organization in York County, wasn't held so the conservative members of the group could be told what they wanted to hear - though they did get some of that. The event at the Holiday Inn Holidome in West Manchester Township was intended to introduce the four candidates in the race, and they had about an hour Thursday to make their best impressions on the group.
While Perkinson's Keynesian economics apparently didn't win any friends, other candidates got "amens" from statements about tax breaks and freedom from government.
All four candidates attended, despite an apparent snafu in which Perkinson's voice-message invitation was never received. The York Township engineer was joined on the stage by Libertarian Michael Koffenberger of Hopewell Township and Independent Wayne Wolff of North Hopewell Township.
State Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, the Republican nominee for the seat, missed the first half of the event after running late in meetings. The apparent crowd favorite, he said he was in Washington, D.C., on a research mission with representatives from the paper industry to learn about regulations that could affect Spring Grove-based Glatfelter and other paper companies.
Different directions: The event was moderated by Matt Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, which crafts free-market policies. The event started with a 912 Patriots meeting, which president Scott Burkholder opened with a prayer for Jesus to "bring this country back to you," and to not allow President Barack Obama "to hurt this country any more than he already has."
The debate commenced with an introduction period in which each candidate could talk about himself and his reasons for running for the seat from which Todd Platts, R-York County, will retire at the end of the year.
The candidates offered vastly different ideas for how to improve the country, with Koffenberger and Wolff often agreeing on the need to repeal legislation and shutter government agencies while Perkinson spoke of investing in infrastructure and explained his reasons for wanting government protections in place.
Koffenberger told the crowd the United States has "become the empire" its early people fought against in the Revolutionary War, and Wolff said the citizens are "being assaulted by our own mutated creation."
Taxes: The questions Brouillette asked were submitted by tea party activists, with discourse centering on taxation and size-of-government issues.
The men were asked to explain their assessments of the current level of federal taxation and any changes they would make.
Both Koffenberger and Wolff said taxes are too high and, apparently running on similar platforms, both said they would advocate a new, simpler tax system and eliminate as many government agencies as possible.
Perkinson silenced the room when he said taxes are obviously too low, saying there wouldn't be a deficit if the government were either spending less or taxing more. He said cutting taxes caused the deficit, and suggested increased taxes are an investment in the future because "government is not just for today ..."
And while neither third-party candidate liked the Affordable Health Care Act and Perry said the first thing he would do is vote to repeal it, Perkinson said he considered the law a good start to addressing health care reform, even though it stops short of the cost-reducing measures he'd like to see.
Libya: The candidates were also asked to weigh in on a current event, the attack that killed four Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador. The men gauged Obama's and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's responses to the killings.
Koffenberger said the United States should "go after" those responsible for the slayings, and Romney was too political in his early criticism of the president. Wolff said Obama's policies "set us up for what happened," and that Americans often "get in trouble" because forces are in places where they aren't wanted.
Perkinson said it's unfortunate the incident became political, but the United States has and should use its capabilities to "surgically" seek out the people responsible for the killings and bring them to justice.
Perry said the Obama's response was too late and too little, and that the president's foreign policy is inept and has endangered the United States.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.