Turns out Republican Tom Smith is not the only Smith vying for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s job.
Meet Rayburn Smith, a retired postal worker from Clarion County who is running as a libertarian. He collected enough signatures to appear on the November Pennsylvania ballot, although they are being challenged by the state Republican Party.
It’s a worst-case scenario for Tom Smith, an underdog candidate with low name recognition, to have a third party challenger to peel away votes. It’s worse yet when the candidate shares the same surname.
There’s a bit of irony, or perhaps Karmic justice for Democrat Casey that his challenger would face an opponent of the same name.
Casey’s father lost his 1978 Democratic primary for governor even as a school teacher and ice cream salesman named Robert Casey won the nomination for lieutenant governor. Casey’s father — who went on to become Gov. Robert P. Casey — ran again in 1986 as the “Real Bob Casey.”
The “other” Smith, 65, doesn’t have a campaign website — he said he doesn’t have Internet at home — doesn’t intend to fundraise and doesn’t have much negative to say about Casey or Tom Smith. Their biggest affront, he said in an interview Monday, is they represent a “plutocracy.”
His motivation for running for federal office, a goal he admits is lofty, is this: The average member of Congress is too wealthy to represent the average American.
Rayburn Smith’s platform consists of creating a website for people to propose national ballot initiatives and referendums. He has ideas to amend the U.S. Constitution, including one to make clear that “corporations are not people,” and another that “money is not speech.”
In the latter, he proposes taxing all contributions to federal election campaigns at 75 percent and putting that toward the national debt.
Smith, a master gardener who started a program to teach local children gardening at the county park, was long an independent, and only recently became a libertarian after being disheartened by President Barack Obama.
“I thought Obama was going to make big changes, I had a lot of hope that way,” Smith said of the Democrat he supported in 2008. “He's fallen in to lock step with the rest of them. I feel it's unfortunate that both of the two old parties are serving the plutocracy, they are not serving you or I. Government has to change …”
Pennsylvania Republicans are challenging statewide candidates running for the Libertarian or Constitution parties, alleging invalid and incomplete signatures. It’s common for the major parties to challenge third parties they feel threaten to siphon off votes.
Given that, Pennsylvania makes it tough for third party candidates to gain ballot access, said Chris Borick, political pollster at Muhlenberg College, who was not surprised the Republicans would try to get Smith off the ballot.
A libertarian could take conservative votes from a Republican candidate, Borick noted, and the possible name confusion “adds fuel to the drive to get him off the ballot.”
Valerie Caras, spokesperson for the state GOP, said third party candidates “raise concerns that President Obama and the Democratic Party are trying to add more candidates to the ballot because they know the vast majority of voters are looking for a new direction.”
The review of signatures begins next week. Roy Minet, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party, said the system is “rigged” to favor Democrats and Republicans.
As for finding a candidate with the same last name as the Republican nominee, Minet said, “I can assure you it’s completely coincidental.”Copyright © 2015, CT Now