I attended the Burns-Russell Town Hall last night at the Quality Inn, just outside Indiana, PA and came away impressed with both candidates. There are very few policy differences between the two Republicans vying for the late John Murtha's seat and both appear to have the citizens' best interests at heart.
Before delving into the candidates' opening statements and Q&A from the audience, I want to thank the Indiana-Armstrong County Patriots for hosting the event. They did a great job keeping everything moving along and everyone who attended that wanted to ask a question got the chance. A few folks asked multiple questions.
The candidates were given 5 minutes each to deliver opening statements. Bill Russell discussed his military career, including his six years at the Pentagon and vast experience working with people all over the world. In the aftermath of 9/11, he worked with FEMA on plans to start the recovery in New York. While he wants to brings jobs to the area, his methods differ from Mr. Murtha's. He believes natural resources - including coal and natural gas - are key to revitalizing western Pennsylvania and that energy independence is key to national security.
Tim Burns outlined his business experience, including founding a software company that serviced the pharmacy industry in 1992. In 11 years, he grew the company to 400 employees with a nationwide reach before selling the company. Since then, he has worked with non-profits on a volunteer basis, including flood relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as well as serving on a board of a non-profit focusing on special needs children. Mr. Burns organized the first Tea Party in Washington County. His motivation to run for Congress are his children and feels a responsibility to them to serve.
Burns then briefly discussed the Special Election to be held concurrently with the Primary on May 18th. In the Special Election, Burns will face off against Mark Critz, Mr. Murtha's top aide, to complete Mr. Murtha's current term. Burns emphasized that "no matter who you support in the primary, we need to support the conservative." He questioned Critz's position on the current health care reform bill, which is currently unknown. Burns also rallied the room to continue opposing the health care bill.
I want to echo Mr. Burns comments. In a short period of time, I've developed a lot of respect for both Mr. Burns and Mr. Russell and I haven't quite decided which to support in the primary. To any Russell supporters reading this, it is IMPERATIVE that Burns wins the special election. Regardless of what happens with Obamacare this weekend, there will be other battles to fight, including cap and trade, amnesty for illegals and card check. We must have a conservative in this seat to help in opposing these wrong-headed policies.
Ok....now for the Q&A: