Latest Issue

County Hall Corner: The Nation’s Eyes are on the PA Senate Race

The Pennsylvania Primary on Tuesday, April 23rd, will be here before we know it, and it is a shoo-in for three-term incumbent US Senator Bob Casey Jr. to win the Democratic race. Likewise, the Republicans are selecting former Army veteran and businessman Dave McCormick. Both men have worthy credentials but also some baggage to deal with. Which of the two will win in the general election in November has national attention as it could flip the Senate to a Republican majority.

Bob Casey Jr. is a three-term incumbent, which sounds impressive, except for the fact that he has not had a major piece of legislation signed into law in 18 years and has also voted 98 percent of the time for President Biden’s agenda. If name recognition counts for anything, Bob Casey, Sr., his father, was governor of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1995.

Dave McCormick is the exact opposite. After losing a very nasty primary in 2022 for the US Senate seat to Mehmet Oz (Dr. Oz), McCormick stepped away from politics. But he was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic supporters who were literally begging him to run in 2024 and finally decided to jump in.

In an odd way, I got the chance to compare the 2022 McCormick with the 2024 McCormick. I first met him at the Lycoming County Republican Party Lincoln Day Banquet at the Genetti Hotel in February of 2022. My wife and I were at a table with six other people, one of whom was McCormick. I knew he was running for the US Senate, and we had a nice chat about his background as well as his challenging Senate race. I was impressed with his background, but nothing particularly jumped out to me at the time. He graciously posed for a picture of the two of us at the table.

Dave McCormick was the keynote speaker at the Lincoln Day Banquet on February 24th of this year, and I saw a different man. Because of the ridiculous accusations that he is a ‘carpetbagger,’ McCormick began by sharing his childhood on a farm near Bloomsburg and becoming a wrestling champ in high school, which helped him to be selected to the US Military Academy. He became a four-time letterman on Army’s wrestling team and co-captain while getting his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering.

After he graduated from West Point in 1987, McCormick went to the US Army Airborne School and Ranger School, where he was named Honor Graduate. He joined the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and, in 1991, was part of the first wave of US troops sent into Iraq during the Gulf War. After separating from the Army, he went to Princeton University to get his doctorate in International Affairs. From there, he worked in the private sector and eventually became CEO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge fund investors.

McCormick’s proposals for changes in Washington, D.C. were not those of a generational politician as much as a man who gets things done through active leadership. When the banquet was over, I introduced myself to McCormick and showed him the picture of the two of us from 2022. I asked to take another, and he was more than happy to do so. To my surprise, a week later my fire company friend Kevin Bittenbender got wind that McCormick was holding a Veteran Roundtable at the Lewisburg Hotel on Saturday, March 9th. Kevin is a highly decorated veteran who is a left foot amputee from a battle wound, and I was very curious about what he would think of Dave McCormick.

Kevin and I agreed that this guy is more than a politician wannabe. We were both incredibly impressed that McCormick spent over an hour talking to the nine veterans who attended the event. A typical candidate, especially one running for an office in Washington, D.C., would not spend that much time with a handful like that. They would shake our hands, tell us a quick story, and then go on to the next event on their schedule. Instead, the nine of us sat around a table, and McCormick asked questions about our experiences and what changes needed to be made with the Veterans Administration. He engaged each person individually, and it was obvious that he understood the frustrations we all experienced. McCormick offered some well-thought-out suggestions and asked for our opinion. Ironically, his staff was getting restless. He ran late for his next event because he was sincerely interested in our concerns. This was not a politician going through his bullet points but rather a true leader who wanted to get our feedback on ideas he was considering.

What impresses me about McCormick appears to be impressing others who are getting to know him as well. Two months ago, McCormick was polling ten points behind Casey. It has since shrunk to four percentage points, and the gap continues to close. Vote in the April primary, everyone — and get ready for the fireworks in this Senate race that will be coming as November draws near.