A group of retired business executives who traditionally take conservative stands on political issues expressed concern on Monday that U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts no longer speaks for them. In fact, they said, he did not even respond to an invitation to talk with them -- so they asked his Democratic opponent for a seat in the U.S House of representatives, Lois Herr, to join them for breakfast.
And she came.
The group, known as the Kennett Koffee Klatch, goes back to the 1930s, according to member and former Kennett Square Mayor Ed Fahey. Back then, he said, the "elder statesmen" of the borough would meet everyday at the old Kennett Kandy Kitchen on State Street to talk about money, politics and what was going on in the community. These days a modern day version of the group comes together at the Kennett Life Center over coffee and breakfast rolls to talk about the same topics.
This week, they had more on their minds than uptown gossip.
Longtime Klatch member Nib Aubuchon of East Marlborough Township said they had tried to get Pitts, R-16, of East Marlborough Township, to come but he never responded to their invitation. Furthermore, he said, many of them wondered why he hasn't been around lately.
With that in mind, he said, they thought it might be a good idea to hear what Herr, his opponent from Elizabethtown, had to say.
At Monday's get-together Herr introduced herself and gave a summary of her professional and political life up to now. She said she is concerned about the national debt and the war in Iraq. She also defended environmental measures of Democrats and reiterated her advocacy of separation of church and state.
"We were misled into the war," she said, adding that there needs to be a "change in policy at the top. ... We need to work out a decent plan of withdrawal."
When she asked for questions, several members of the group pummeled her with concerns about Democrats' perceived desire to increase taxes, go easy on illegal immigrants and withhold support for privatization of Social Security -- among other things.
But they also expressed doubts that Pitts was helping solve the problems.
Aaron Martin of Kennett Township said he was concerned about the inclusion of religion in Republican politics. "I'm disillusioned with Joe Pitts and the Republican Party. This is the first time a party has become a religious party," he said, adding that he is disappointed about the intrusion of abortion and stem cell research into politics.
On that there was a strong "aye, aye" among the half dozen or so members around the table. They also agreed that they hated the war in Iraq, but some expressed doubt that withdrawal of the U.S. troops would keep Iraq from attacking in the United States.
Most of them agreed as well that politicians in general are suspect. "We've lost something. Politicians only want to get elected," Aubuchon said.
Pitts' Chief of Staff Gabe Neville said Tuesday "Joe's been around quite a bit." He cited Pitts' presence at the Robert Thompson Post Office dedication last weed and the distribution of coats for Operation Warm.
"He works hard. He has met with those men before ... and Congress has been in session more than usual lately," Neville said.