The leader of the Armstrong County Tea Party announced his candidacy in Pittsburgh Tuesday for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Bob Casey (D-PA). Tom Smith, a former coal company owner, is conducting a two-day cross-state tour to unveil his campaign.
The 63-year-old Smith joins a growing field of Republican candidates that includes Scranton Tea Party activist Laureen Cummings, Marc Scaringi, a former aide to Senator Rick Santorum, and retired U.S. Army Colonel John Vernon of Tioga County. However, Smith is new to the Republican Party, registering "about a month ago." He said he was a Reagan Democrat and decided "to follow his lead" and switched to the GOP. "As a life-long conservative, I have supported common sense Republican principles: limited government and power that comes from the people, not from professional politicians," Smith said.
Smith said the country has been left to the professional politicians too long and has gotten "out of control unemployment, out of control spending and out of control debt from an out of control Washington."
He worked on his family's farm and then became a coal miner before starting his own coal companies in 1989, eventually employing 130 people. Smith sold the companies last year to Rosebud Mining.
Smith did not mention the other Republican contenders, but took aim at Senator Casey. He criticized Casey's support for the bailout of Wall Street, the federal stimulus program, and the federal health care law passed in 2010. "I stand for reducing taxes, reducing federal spending, and reducing the size and scope of the federal government in all our lives," Smith said.
He wouldn't say how much money he needs to raise but he has "every confidence in the world that yes, we will have sufficient funding to run a campaign that's aggressive and straight forward."