Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bush Stumps for Hackett

Laura Bush visits area, helps garner more than $100,000 for Hackett, other Republicans at $1,000-per-person brunch

September 19
A fundraising first lady
By Andrew M. Seder aseder@timesleader.com
Staff Writer

MOOSIC – A Thursday brunch raised more than $100,000 for Chris Hackett’s congressional campaign efforts. Thousands more were taken in for the PA Victory Campaign, which supports federal- and state-level Republican candidates.

Amato gets property up to speed for first lady’s visit
But it wasn’t the breakfast burritos, a former world champion drag racer or Hackett most of the people came to see. Instead, about 100 people paid $1,000 each for a meet-and-greet with first lady Laura Bush.

Bush, who spent an hour signing autographs, posing for pictures and chatting up guests, did not grant an interview with the media, who were not invited to the visit.

Hackett said the first lady’s appearance on his campaign’s behalf meant a lot to him and local party leaders who are focusing their efforts on regaining the seat for the GOP.

The visits by high-profile GOP members won’t end with Bush. Lynn Swann, a former Pittsburgh Steeler who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006, will stump locally for Hackett on Oct. 9, though further details were not finalized, according to the Hackett campaign.

“I think it’s a great message that the Republican Party believes this seat is important enough for the first lady to come out to do an event,” Hackett said.

Terry Casey, chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Party, said Bush talked about the importance of having a Republican win the seat back.

“She knew the district was always Republican and she told everyone the party has to win the seat back,” Casey said after the event.

Hackett, a Kingston Township businessman, is trying to defeat freshman U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock Township. Prior to Carney, Republicans held the seat for more than four decades.

Hackett freely admitted most people came to the event, held at former world-record-holding drag racer Joe Amato’s home, to see Bush not him. But there were some who said the overall cause of electing a Republican whose values mirror theirs was a factor.

Rocco Chierichella, of Masthope, Pike County, carried a binder filled with pictures with President George Bush. It was his third time meeting Laura Bush. He said he came to support Hackett, and Republicans in Pike County will do whatever they can to see to it that he defeats Carney.

He ripped the incumbent congressman’s record and said his support of presidential candidate Barack Obama illustrates “(Carney’s) not the guy for this country.”

He said Hackett, like GOP presidential nominee John McCain, will put the military and the safety and security of all Americans ahead of politics. Chierichella said Carney might say he votes his district rather than his party, but he hasn’t seen it.

“The bottom line is, on most important issues, he’s (Carney) voting with Democrats. You can have a military background, but when you put politics ahead of the country, you’ve clouded your judgment,” he said.

Carney’s campaign manager, Vincent Rongione, took offense to allegations his boss puts politics before national security.

“Congressman Carney is the only candidate in this race who was ever served this country in uniform. He has spent the greater portion of his adult life serving our nation and working as a counter-terrorism expert. He continues to be one of only two members of Congress who still serve actively in the military. The war on terror is not a partisan issue,” Rongione said.

He went on to say Carney “has held 27 town hall meetings in 20 months and always puts the people of northeast and central Pennsylvania first.”

While there was some tough talk against Carney and the Democrats, some focused on the lady of the hour instead of attacking Carney.

Keith and Mary Ann Olsommer, of Sterling, Wayne County, have met presidents before but never a first lady.

“This was our first first lady,” Keith Olsommer said. “She was very personable. I thought she was outstanding.”

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