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Towanda Daily Review - "Meuser Plays Up His Endorsements"

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Location: Snyder County, PA

Towanda Daily Review - "Meuser Plays Up His Endorsements"

Dan Meuser tells a joke.

It bombs. Even at his own fund-raiser filled with Republicans. Even though "Democrats" are the punch line. But it only takes a second for him to rebound.

"… as opposed to Democrats, their favorite day is April 15 … We'll try to get more funny as the night goes on," Meuser says, this time to a room of laughter.

More than 50 people are crammed into a room at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club, in Snyder County. Most have paid the $50 for drinks and appetizers, and most already support Meuser in his bid for the Republican nomination in the 10th Congressional District.

Meuser and his primary opponent Chris Hackett claim to be the "conservative" who can win the 10th District seat back from Chris Carney, D-Dimock Township. Carney defeated longtime incumbent Don Sherwood in 2006 in part because of revelations that Sherwood had an extramarital affair.

"Dan Meuser is the type of conservative we need in Congress," David A. Keene said during the fundraiser. "He is the strongest conservative candidate who will take back this seat in November."

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a well-known conservative, officially endorses Meuser during the fundraiser. The night is as much about raising money as showing Meuser's strength of support to the western portion of the 10th District. Donald Ely, the retired high school teacher and minister from Northumberland County who dropped out of the race, is on hand. He endorses Meuser and encouraged Keene to do the same.

Meuser campaigns door-to-door. He attends "meet and greets." But Meuser also plays up his endorsements more than Hackett. During debates, he refers to former Republican Senator Rick Santorum as "his friend." Santorum endorses Meuser, as does 11th Congressional Republican candidate and former Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta. A letter from Barletta showing his support of Meuser is on display at the fundraiser.

Both candidates are fighting for the conservative label in this district that voted for President Bush in 2004 by about 60 percent. Both have business backgrounds, but little political experience. Meuser wants voters to identify him as the candidate with support of well-known and well-liked Republicans. The conservative candidate, as he says, that can win against Carney.

Meuser, 44, grew up in New York. His father, Stan, worked for the New York Police Department. Upon his retirement, Meuser's father moved in the late 1980s to Northeastern Pennsylvania to take over a small furniture company. Meuser joined his brother and dad 21 years ago to help run Pride Mobility Inc., which now manufactures wheel chairs and employs about 1,200 people.

Meuser touts his experience running Pride and working in business. It's the basis, he says, for many of his positions.

"We don't need more taxes," he said. "We need more taxpayers."

He understands heath care costs, because he's dealt with the problem as a business owner. He supports Health Care Savings Accounts — where younger people can save money over time. He suggests as much citizens being able to put $20,000 annually tax free for health care costs.

"Lowering health care costs, yet ensuring quality: the only way to do that is an open market solution to the health care crisis," Meuser said.

He said legal reform is needed as well as more "market-based" solutions. He takes a similar approach to Social Security for younger people, but doesn't support privatizing Social Security, he said.

"We need as a country provide people with more ways of saving for retirement," Meuser said. "We need to provide more ways to save for health care."

Making Pride, a cornerstone of his campaign, Meuser has also faced questions about his company. Meuser wants to "secure our borders" and supports funding a fence on the nation's border with Mexico. Pride was fined $41,000 for hiring illegal immigrants in the mid-1990s, but settled the matter for $23,000 in 1997. Meuser said three illegal immigrants "falsified" documents.

"This is why we have to address the issue," Meuser said. "Businesses like mine are being hurt."

Meuser has served on several boards in the area including the Pittston YMCA, the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce as well as the board of Trustees of Misericordia University. He and his wife, Shelley, moved with their three children to Harveys Lake within the past month. Previously, Meuser lived in Jackson Township, part of the 11th District. Congressmen don't have to live within their districts, but must live in the state.

"That's not easy to ask," Meuser said, "but I didn't want 200 yards to be an issue in this race."

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