Friday's big news was the new jobs report, which showed unemployment at its lowest level -- 7.8 percent -- since January 2009.
Laureen Cummings, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvnia's 17th Congressional district, is skeptical.
"I do not believe that number. I do not trust anything I see in the media today," Cummings told an audience of Lehigh Valley Tea Party members Friday night at the Chrin Community Center in Palmer Township.
Cummings was there for what was supposed to be a candidate's forum, where she and Democratic opponent Matt Cartwright would answer questions. A second debate focused on the 15th Congressional District race, where U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent and his Democratic challenger Rick Daughterty answered questions.
Event organizers said Cartwright "declined" to attend. His campaign manager, Shane Seaver, said they'd only heard about the event Friday morning, and had a conflict.
Barbara Walters, chair of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party, said the Cartwright campaign had e-mailed the organization back in August that Cartwright would attend.
Without Cartwright, the first half of the event focused on Cummings, the owner of a home health care business in Old Forge, Lackawanna County, and herself the founder of Scranton's Tea Party.
She's given that position up since beginning her run for office. Still, she found a mostly friendly audience in Palmer Friday, where she discussed her views on taxes, the size of government, and the employment figures.
Although she said she doesn't trust news reports about the unemployment figures, she did cite commentator Dick Morris, who has argued unemployment numbers are higher than what the Obama administration says.
"I believe Dick Morris, but I should go look those numbers up," Cummings said.
Other questions focused on:
- The tax code. Cummings advocates getting rid of income tax in favor of a national sales tax.
- Health care reform. "Repeal it," Cummings said when asked about Obamacare. She said her nursing background gives her insight into waste in the health care industry. That needs to be the focus, she said.
- The size of government. Cummings thinks there's too much intrusion. She spoke of talking to a farmer who said the EPA was telling him he needed to better manage the manure on his property due to concerns about runoff. "I think that's just insane," Cummings said. "Do they collect when bears go to the bathroom in the woods?"
- Her opponent: Cummings characterized Cartwright as her polar opposite, specifically related to gun laws and Obamacare. She also told the audience Cartwright "believes the Tea Party is something that needs to be destroyed."
Seaver said he's not sure if Cartwright has ever actually said the Tea Party had to be "destroyed."
But he said Cartwright shares the view of many Democrats: that since Tea Party members have joined Congress, it's become harder and harder for bipartisanship work to get done.
"It's been next to impossible to even think of crossing the aisle," Seaver said.
Cummings and Cartwright are scheduled to meet for a live televised debate Oct. 17 at WLVT's studios in Bethlehem, as well as debates in Schuylkill County and Wilkes-Barre.
The 17th district is a new creation. It's made up of parts of Northampton, Monroe, Carbon, Schuylkill, Luzerene and Lackawanna counties.
In Northampon, it includes the city of Easton, along with Forks, Palmer, Bethlehem, Upper and Lower Mount Bethel and Washington townships, as well as the boroughs of Wilson, West Easton, Glendon, Nazareth, Stockertown, Tatamy, Bangor, East Bangor, Freemansburg, Pen Argyl, Portland and Roseto.