With Americans frustrated by a Congress that is too busy screaming across the partisan divide to solve the nation's problems, Pennsylvanians must be careful whom they elect to the U.S. Senate next month.
Bob Casey has a record of working with both parties in his first term as senator. He's a centrist Democrat with conservative views on abortion, guns and stem cell research.
Tom Smith, the millionaire Republican who wants to replace him, would ramp up political polarization on Capitol Hill with his Tea Party agenda.
It would be a grave mistake to turn up the heat in Washington when what the country needs is light. For that reason, the Post-Gazette endorses Bob Casey for a second term.
Also on the ballot is Rayburn Smith, a Libertarian from Clarion County.
From Scranton, Mr. Casey, 52, is well-known to Pennsylvanians. He's not just the son of the late popular governor, who also was a common-sense Democrat; he's someone who was trusted by state voters to be their auditor general and treasurer. Mr. Casey worked for 10 years in those posts, as the state's fiscal watchdog and chief investment officer, all without a hint of scandal or lax performance. His record of service to Pennsylvania is an open book.
Then, in 2006, he ran for the U.S. Senate. By succeeding, he removed a poisonous, divisive force in Congress -- predecessor Rick Santorum, who was seeking his third term.
Although no one becomes a leader in the Senate in the first six years, Mr. Casey has been active on many fronts. He introduced a bill to curb lobbying excesses; supported a tax package to help middle-class families on the child tax credit, the child-care credit and the alternative minimum tax; spoke out against the military surge in Iraq and sought federal aid for Pennsylvania dairy farmers who were rocked by erratic prices.
Mr. Casey worked to raise the minimum wage; argued for a higher tax on oil company profits; advocated "fair trade," not "free trade," to preserve U.S. jobs; pushed to fund SCHIP, which provides health coverage to uninsured children; voted to ban waterboarding; fought for protections for the coal industry on climate change legislation and worked on compromise language regarding abortion to get the health care reform passed.
Sen. Casey co-sponsored a bill with Republican Sen. Scott Brown to tighten sanctions on Iran; voted to repeal the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy; pushed to extend the federal low-income heating program; introduced a bill to slap sanctions on China for currency manipulation, which hurts U.S. jobs; and sponsored legislation to put the "fracking" for gas under federal oversight and force drillers to reveal the chemicals they use.
Despite this full-court press on Pennsylvania's challenges and the nation's problems, opponent Tom Smith has the gall to call Mr. Casey "Senator Zero." The retired coal company owner had better relearn his math. The Casey record that Pennsylvanians know does not add up to nothing.
Mr. Smith, 64, of Armstrong County is trying to buy this election. Despite the simple, homespun persona projected in his TV ads, this seemingly plain-spoken, aw-shucks candidate has sunk $16.5 million of his own money into this year's Senate race. Along the way, he has refused to meet with newspaper editorial boards and take questions about his agenda.
There is no doubt about what he would do in Washington -- repeal the law that extends health care to millions of people who were shut out; adopt a flat tax, which is likely to help the rich more than the middle class; make deep cuts in federal spending, except in the military; and replace Medicare for future retirees with a voucher to buy insurance from private companies.
We have seen his kind before. Tom Smith will be one more obdurate, unyielding lawmaker in a Capitol that already has too many. Better he hold his tea parties on his farm, and leave Sen. Bob Casey the job of representing Pennsylvania.