John Baer: There's a new GOP candidate looking to take on Sen. Casey

Paul Addis fits mostly in the mold of today’s political upstart: wealthy, successful in business, first-time candidate convinced disenchantment with government and politicians offers opportunity for a new class of officeholder.

But the self-described “traditional conservative who believes the least fortunate need to be helped” is far from the mold of our current top example of political upstart, President Trump.

In fact, speaking recently to a rural Republican crowd at Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County, Addis was asked three questions.

His age: 63. His military service: U.S. Coast Guard. And if he voted for Trump: He did not.

He says that didn’t go over well.

And there’s more. Addis opposes Trump’s travel ban and “great wall,” and he had a letter in the Inquirer last June saying Trump has neither the experience nor temperament to be president.

So who is this guy and why’s he seeking GOP support to take on two-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Casey in 2018?

Addis (in the race as of Wednesday) is a native New Yorker who lives in Haverford. He spent 30-plus years running commodity-trading and energy companies, specializing in building new businesses and fixing broken ones.

In the 1990s, he managed the first electricity trade in the nation, in California, helping kick off the industry’s deregulation.

Married with four grown children, he is a University of Maryland grad with a double master’s, one in history from Maryland, one in environmental health from the University of Minnesota.

He’s now a “private investor” and local volunteer (as a tutor in Philly literacy programs) and says he’ll “partially” fund his campaign.

As to why he’s running: “The GOP has lost its way” and needs candidates of character, experience, imagination, and “a real understanding of American history.”

He wants government to do less (in terms of regulations that can hamper economic growth) and more (in health care and for the working poor).

“Where government should be involved is in issues and problems not easily solvable by individuals, families, or states,” he tells me.

He’d support, for example, universal catastrophic health insurance from birth, what he calls “a narrow focus to deal with the worst problems” — horrific disorders, terrible accidents — to help people and insurers beat the issue of preexisting conditions.

He says Casey should be replaced because “he’s been in state or federal government 20 years, but I can’t see how he has improved the lot of the state or nation. He’s not imaginative or forceful in any way, shape, or form.”

Casey – variously described as a stiff with the gift of a great name (his father was governor, 1987-95) or, in recent a New York Times profile, as newly aggressive since Trump’s election – clearly disagrees with Addis.

His Senate website, casey.senate.gov, offers lists of “accomplishments.”

And Casey already won one reelection by beating an outsider millionaire Republican, mining magnate Tom Smith, in 2012.

And just to get to Casey, Addis first must win a GOP primary next May.

It’s unclear what that field will look like. At present, it’s notable for the absence of big-name Republicans. Those announced include State Rep. Jim Christiana (R., Beaver) and State Rep. Rick Saccone (R., Allegheny).

 U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, an early Trump supporter in central Pennsylvania, is considering a run, at Trump’s urging. And, given the tenor of the times, look for one or two more well-heeled newcomers.

There was plenty of GOP excitement regarding ousting Casey in 2018 after Trump carried Pennsylvania last November.

But national ratings from February to May — from Cook Political Report, Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics, Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales, and Stuart Rothenberg – put next year’s Pennsylvania Senate race at likely or leaning Democratic.

It’s impossible at this point to know what political climate envelops the race, impossible to know if anti-establishment, anti-incumbency is at its core.

What’s not impossible, given politics we’ve seen, is imaging almost any outcome.