By Borys Krawczeniuk and Michael Sisak
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey accused Democratic candidate Joe Sestak of supporting Democratic policies designed to turn the country into "a European-style welfare state."
Citing the Wall Street and automobile industry bailouts, the $787 billion economic stimulus package and the $940 billion health care reform bill, Mr. Toomey said they have led to "deficits and debt that are completely unaffordable" and a tepid economic recovery.
"Joe Sestak, my opponent, is 100 percent in favor of this whole agenda and his whole agenda, and his only criticism is it doesn't go far enough," Mr. Toomey told about a dozen supporters gathered at the Pierce Street Deli.
The stop was one of seven on the first day of a four-day, 23-county tour with his family in a recreational vehicle. Mr. Toomey later made similar remarks to about two dozen party activists at Arcaro & Genell in Old Forge.
Both stops were greeted by Democratic Party-organized protesters who are shadowing Mr. Toomey. They scolded the former interest- and currency-rate swaps trader for his Wall Street ties.
"Main Street, not Wall Street," the Democrats chanted outside the Old Forge restaurant.
Mr. Toomey's campaign put out a news release highlighting an unemployment rate that remains higher than predicted in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, despite the stimulus.
In an interview later, Mr. Toomey dismissed economists who say the downturn would have been worse without the stimulus, citing other economists who think the stimulus accomplished nothing, he said. He also dismissed the turnaround of General Motors and Chrysler because of bailout funding, which President Barack Obama recently highlighted.
"So taxpayers had to shovel a boatload of money into these companies and now, for the moment, they're profitable. That's not a viable model in my mind," he said. "I just don't think that's fair to the taxpayers."
In Old Forge, Rosanne Kolberg, a Democratic organizer, was among eight protesters, and taunted Mr. Toomey with a sign that said, "Thanks for being our friend," followed by a red heart and the words, "Wall Street."
"Anybody that wants to bet on everyone else losing their shirt, stick with Pat Toomey," Ms. Kolberg said.
Mr. Toomey said his Wall Street work helped companies borrow and manage risk so they could hire more people.
"I left Wall Street 20 years ago, but one of the things I learned when I was on Wall Street is that's the last place I think taxpayer bailout dollars should go for bailouts," he said. "Joe Sestak supported all of those bailouts, and he supports still more bailouts, and I opposed them. I think that makes it pretty clear who's on the side of Wall Street."