Tom Smith didn’t go to college and has little political experience, but Republicans in Pennsylvania are counting on this “old farm boy” to give the incumbent Democratic senator from a well-known political family a run for his money in November.
“You can sum my life up in one sentence,” Smith recently told The Daily Caller. “I’m just an old farm boy that got in this place in the coal mines and wound up in business and did pretty well at it and now I’m running for the United States Senate.”
Relying on millions from his own bank account, Smith won the Republican primary in April even though the GOP establishment backed one of his opponents. He is taking on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr., the son of the former Pennsylvania governor.
Hardly surprising, Smith compares himself to Ron Johnson, the freshman Wisconsin senator, who was a businessman — and not a politician — before running for the U.S. Senate.
“Ron Johnson from Wisconsin would be someone who I would model,” Smith said in an interview. “There are parallels there. Businessman. Fed up. Children. Worried. So he did some self-financing and got himself elected.”
Asked to recite his strongest argument against Casey, Smith told TheDC: “Sen. Bob Casey has a famous political name here in Pennsylvania. His father was a well-liked governor. Sen. Bob Casey is not his father, and I will point out his voting record.”
“He voted for Obamacare,” Smith explained, “he voted for the stimulus, he voted for the bailouts, cash for clunkers.”
Asked to describe priority legislation, Smith said: “We’ve got to get business friendly again. These small businesses are hurting.”
“I’m a conservative,” he said. “I think the economy needs grown and I don’t think the people we have in place right now — particularly Sen. Bob Casey, he’s never run a business — have the first idea what business people go through.”
Contrasting himself to Casey, Smith plays up his humble beginnings. “I still live on the same 400-acre farm that I was raised on as a kid.”
After his father passed away while Smith was in his early twenties, he took over the farm and therefore didn’t go to college. “I went to the University of Hard Knocks,” the 64-year-old said with a laugh.
Smith, who has six daughters and one son, went on to start his own coal mining company in the mid 1980s in western Pennsylvania. “It was a little hard to get started up and growing, but we got that accomplished and over the next 20 some years we grew that one company into several, and in the end of 2010 our companies were producing close to 100,000 tons of coal a month,” he said.