Clout: Obscure Senate hopeful turns to TV

Posted: August 17, 2012

MEET TOM SMITH.

That's a line in a biographical campaign TV ad that Smith, the Republican nominee to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in the Nov. 6 general election, is running on broadcast TV in the Philadelphia region from Thursday to Monday.

Smith, who turned a lot of heads in the Republican primary by investing just shy of $5 million into his campaign and dominating the commercial war, still has a lot of people to meet in the state.

A Daily News/Franklin & Marshall College Poll on Thursday showed that 68 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania don't know who he is. Casey leads Smith 35-23 percent with 39 percent undecided, according to the poll.

Smith has been running ads on cable television across the state. He hopes the big-broadcast splash - $183,600 to run 168 spots on 6ABC, NBC 10, CBS 3 and Fox 29 - gets people talking about him in the state's largest media market.

The ad, called "Big Dreams," starts off with a shot at "Bob Casey's failed record" on unemployment. Smith, who made his money running a coal company in western Pennsylvania's Armstrong County, describes his life as the American dream.

"At 40 he was a union coal miner with big dreams, so he mortgaged his family farm to start his own energy company, creating hundreds of jobs so others could realize the American dream," the ad's narrator explains.

Not noted: The coal mines he later ran were not unionized.

So Smith, who often touts his role in starting a tea-party group, is playing up his union history here in the big city.

Smith appeared Thursday morning on "The Big Talker," WPHT-AM, to discuss his local ad campaign. He had a predictably friendly reception. Fill-in host Larry O'Connor didn't bring up a couple of items that Smith's fellow Republicans found interesting in the primary.

Smith was a Democrat for 42 years and served in that party as a township supervisor in the 1970s and as an elected committeeman until 2010.

Smith said last month that "the well is not dry" when asked if he would spend another $5 million on the general election. He gave his campaign an additional $1.5 million after the primary, which he won with 39.5 percent of the vote.

Nutter vs. unions, again

Stop us if you've heard this one before: A big event is about to happen in Philadelphia, and some city workers are going to use it to embarrass Mayor Nutter.

District Council 33 President Pete Matthews sent a letter to all city elected officials this week, slamming Nutter for not negotiating a new contract. His blue-collar union has been without a contract since July 2009.

Matthews accused Nutter of "deliberately creating a poisonous atmosphere with District Council 33 and all of the City's unions," adding, "his actions may have negative political and electoral consequences in the coming November general election."

The letter included a flier that calls Nutter "the most antiunion mayor in Philadelphia's history."

Three city government sources told us DC33 plans to protest Nutter during the two-day "Made in America" concert featuring Jay-Z over the Labor Day weekend. That could be embarrassing for the mayor, as the eyes of the nation fall on the city.

A DC33 spokesman declined to comment when asked if the union was gearing up for a protest.

We've been here before. The city's firefighters used a national convention by their union here last month to protest Nutter for rejecting an arbitrator's award.

And Matthews last week declared during a news conference about last Saturday's massive "Stand for America" labor rally that his union might "sit on our hands" during the presidential election on Nov. 6 if Nutter doesn't ink a new contract.

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said he hadn't heard about any protests for the concert. He repeated that Nutter is ready to negotiate if the unions will discuss changes in pensions, health-care costs and work rules.

GOP ward fight @ PPA

We told you two weeks ago that Chris Vogler, Republican leader of the 55th Ward in lower Northeast Philly, might lose his job as head of the Philadelphia Parking Authority's red-light-camera program because technical blunders in 2008 and earlier this year cost the agency nearly $1.8 million in refunded or canceled fines.

His father, Walt Vogler, Republican leader of the 21st Ward in Roxborough and the PPA deputy director of airport operations, proposed at a GOP meeting this week a new party bylaw preventing any ward leader from having control of more than one ward.

There are three GOP ward leaders who head more than one ward. They all work for the PPA. One of them, Vince Fenerty, is the agency's executive director.

Fenerty, who has suspended Chris Vogler with the intent to dismiss him, held a hearing Tuesday to listen to his side of the story. Chris Vogler and his father didn't respond to our phone calls.

Vito Canuso, chairman of the Republican City Committee, allowed Walt Vogler to form a committee to consider his new rule.

Canuso called it an "astute observation" that the ward leaders potentially affected by the idea all work at the PPA. Ever the attorney, he offered this when we asked if Walt Vogler was motivated by his son's PPA woes: "I can't negatively comment on that."

- Staff writer Catherine Lucey

contributed to this report.


Contact Chris Brennan at brennac@phillynews.com or 215-854-5973. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN. Read his blog at phillyclout.com.

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