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GOP challenger to Smucker criticizes failure to hold town hall meetings

Written by Marie Cusick | May 10, 2018 6:00 AM
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Businessman Chet Beiler at his campaign headquarters in Manheim Township.

(Lancaster)-- Midstate Congressman Lloyd Smucker is facing a familiar opponent in Tuesday's Republican primary.

Chet Beiler is running for a second time against Smucker in the newly redrawn 11th District, which covers all of Lancaster County and southern York County.

The Manheim area businessman is hoping to convince voters this time around that he's the real conservative--dubbing his opponent, "Liberal Lloyd."

Beiler also claims the congressman has spent much of the past two years avoiding his constituents.

That's because Smucker has not held a single public forum.  Beiler says if he's elected, he'll hold them four times a year.

"Town hall meetings were part of what birthed this nation in the first place," he said.
"There's something beautiful about in-person meetings with the public."

At a primary debate last week in Columbia, Smucker was asked directly whether he'd pledge to hold a public forum. He said face-to-face discussions with constituents are an important part of his job.

But when pressed, Smucker began angrily talking over the debate moderator and criticizing LNP, the news organization hosting the forum.

"LNP has promoted this idea that I'm not accessible," said Smucker. "It's absolutely not true. It's disingenuous as well."

Despite repeated requests by WITF, Smucker's campaign would not make him available for an interview.

The congressman recently defended his lack of public forums in a written essay for LNP, saying he does not want to give a platform to "paid political activists."

Beiler believes Smucker is trying to hide.

 "He apparently does not want to defend his record in public, or be confronted with some of his votes," said Beiler.

When it comes to the issues, the two men agree on many things--including promoting a business-friendly environment and rolling back what they see as burdensome regulations.

Each said they're dedicated supporters of gun rights, but both think more should be done to promote school safety.

Beiler and Smucker also support President Donald Trump's border wall and want to see immigration law updated.

However, Beiler continues to criticize Smucker, a former state senator, for authoring a Pennsylvania version of the DREAM Act. It would have allowed undocumented immigrants to receive in-state college tuition.

In an April 2016 interview with WITF, Smucker said he views that as a conservative idea.

 "There's not a dollar of state taxpayer money that is going to these kids," said Smucker. "They're earning their way through, but they should have access."

At the recent primary forum, Smucker said he got into politics because as a small business owner, he saw, "a government overreach, that holds businesses back." He also said he was proud to work with his colleagues in Congress and the Trump administration on the recent tax overhaul.

 "I think we're making tremendous progress," said Smucker. "I think this president has the chance of being one of the great presidents in the history of our country. So, I'm proud to serve while he's there."

It's a definite change in tone.

Before Trump secured the Republican nomination, Smucker was asked by WITF (in April 2016) how he viewed disparaging comments Trump made about Mexicans.

Smucker recalled his Amish parents, and said they always treated everyone with respect.

 "People come from a different set of experiences, and maybe [don't] always agree with you, but you still start with that level of respect for other individuals," he said. "The kind of language you just mentioned isn't the kind of language we should be using as public officials."

For his part, Chet Beiler thinks Trump is doing a great job. He gives the president credit for the tax overhaul, appointing conservative federal judges, and the robust economic picture.

Although, he says he wishes the president would stop "Tweeting recklessly."

 "I think it's a little bit unfortunate, and unattractive, but I sure do appreciate his policies," said Beiler.

Two years ago, his criticism of Smucker as "too liberal" didn't stick. He thinks it will work this time because Pennsylvania's newly drawn congressional maps make the district more conservative. He also said there were more "low information voters" who came out to the polls in 2016 to support or oppose Trump.

"This time, we think the turnout will be lower," said Beiler. "And there will be voters who I think are a bit more, well committed, to constitutional fidelity and true conservative principals."

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Jess King in the November general election.

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