Delaware County Community College offered a free, one-hour class in Farcical Politics 101 last night by hosting the 7th Congressional District debate between Bryan Lentz and Jim Schneller.
There they were, side by side. Lentz, the Democratic state representative, and Schneller, the conservative “birther” that Lentz’s folks helped place on the ballot. In what could be a very tight race, Schneller, who barely registers in polls, is expected to snag some votes from Republican frontrunner Pat Meehan, the former U.S. Attorney who backed out of last night’s debate after Schneller was invited.
It was an amicable debate, as you’d expect from such a symbiotic relationship. But it was a strange bit of political theater in a high-stakes election.
About a minute before the debate began, Schneller hopped off the stage to chat with Rocco Polidoro, a Lentz supporter who was among the well-known Democrats to gather nominating signatures for Schneller. Yesterday, the Daily News ran this letter from Polidoro in which he frets that Republicans would repeal Obama’s health-care reform bill if they gain control of Congress. Then, Schneller got on stage last night and said that he would vote to repeal the bill if elected to the House. Hmmm …
“I understand that some of Washington is interested in repealing this health-care plan,” Schneller said. “I believe they’re right."
Schneller, perhaps best known for filing unsuccessful lawsuits – including one in 2008 that questioned Obama's citizenship in an attempt to block him from being sworn in as president – said he opposes letting openly gay and lesbian soldiers serve in the military. “This policy would lead to a distracting, a lack of productivity when it comes down to numbers, and also a lack of morale,” he said. “I think it’s an inappropriate place for the extremist activists to focus their energies. If they seek to accustom Americans to the homosexual lifestyle, perhaps they should put the military on the back shelf.”
Sounds like the type of guy Democrats would want to gather nominating signatures for, right?
Schneller also had an interesting take on the environment, suggesting a sinister motive to reducing carbon emissions: “The current efforts at cap-and-trade and carbon-related taxes are simply an effort to tax us out of existence.”
He told the audience of about two dozen to disregard the polls that show him getting between 1 percent to 2 percent of the vote. “I am a hugely viable candidate,” he said. “I am electable and I will be elected.” That’s hugely unlikely, but recent polls show that Schneller could swing the election from Meehan to Lentz if the race continues to tighten and Schneller cuts into Meehan’s vote total. Two independent polls this week have Meehan ahead by between 1 percent to 3 percent of likely voters, but local Republicans insist he has a bigger lead. As much as a third of the electorate remains undecided.
Here's more coverage of last night's debate.