U.S. Senate Democrats: Veteran vs. Newcomer

Posted: 9:21 AM EDT Apr 21, 2012   Updated: 3:24 PM EDT Apr 21, 2012

The Democratic primary for U.S. Senate pits Bob Casey Jr., an incumbent with one of the best-known names in Pennsylvania politics, against a political novice, small businessman Joseph Vodvarka, who proudly calls himself "a nobody."

Casey is running for his second term, and has raised millions for his campaign. Vodvarka says he'll spend between $10,000 and $12,000 on his run.

Here's a look at each candidate and what each believes are the big issues.


Casey, who just turned 52 and lives in Scranton, attended college at Holy Cross and earned a law degree from Catholic University. He was Pennsylvania's treasurer and auditor general before being elected to the Senate in 2006. He has been in the national spotlight in part because of his early endorsement of then-Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential primary.

Casey is a member of the Senate's agriculture, foreign relations, and health and education committees.

He says long-term job growth and providing tax relief are top priorities, and that's why he supported extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits, and tax cuts for small businesses.

He also says it's important to eliminate tax incentives for companies that send jobs overseas.

Recently, Casey has spoken about the cost of rising fuel costs, saying he favors legislation promoting natural gas development and having the government combat attempts by foreign governments to fix prices.


Vodvarka is 68 and lives in Robinson Township, Allegheny County. He is semi-retired from the spring manufacturing business that he founded, which used to employ 10-12 people.

Vodvarka describes himself as "the working man, the common man. I work with my hands." He also says he's a "Granddaddy Democrat" who would "get the party back to its roots of Roosevelt and Kennedy."

Creating jobs would be Vodvarka's top priority if he's elected. "The way things are now, there are only two kinds of jobs -- the jobs that have left and the ones that are going to leave," he says.

Vodvarka says he wants to make it possible for corporations to bring back jobs to America. "Corporations used to pay taxes [to the U.S government]. Now they go over to Third World countries and hire people at under a dollar an hour and they pay nothing, and the government wonders why it's broke."

Vodvarka also says the trillion dollars spent on the war in Iraq would have been put to better use funding research on cancer, Alzheimer's disease and AIDS. "Then you'd have something to show for it."


Casey has rarely, if ever, mentioned Vodvarka.

Vodvarka is unhappy that Casey has not responded to his request for a debate. But, he says, he has not -- and will not -- attack the senator in his campaign speeches or advertising. "I would never attack anybody," Vodvarka says. "To come out there and stoop so low, I'd rather lose the election."

Instead, Vodvarka reserves his criticism for Democratic party officials and the media. "The whole party shuns me because I am not the endorsed candidate," he says. "And the media does not want to know me. I thought if I'd got this far, I'd be news."