- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former energy executive and a first-time candidate for public office joined the GOP field Wednesday vying to challenge Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in 2018.

Paul Addis, of suburban Philadelphia, added his name to a field of relative political unknowns, including two state lawmakers from western Pennsylvania and a real estate investor, also from suburban Philadelphia, who has never been on a ballot before. Two Republican congressmen - Lou Barletta and Mike Kelly - are also considering running, as Republican Party brass search for a higher-profile challenger to Casey, the 56-year-old son of a late former governor who has run statewide five times in a 20-year career in public office.

The Democratic Party said the GOP’s “clown car primary” promises a costly and brutal primary campaign for Republicans.

Addis, 63, spent much of his career in energy, including as a top executive at American Electric Power of Ohio and Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy of Connecticut, at a time of major change in the industry to competitive markets.

Raised on Long Island, the son of a New York City schoolteacher and World War II vet, Addis is also something of a maverick.

He is sharply critical of President Donald Trump - he wrote in Arizona Sen. John McCain for president in November, he said - and that quickly distinguishes him from the current crop of would-be GOP challengers to Casey. He also takes moderate Republican positions on gun control and immigration policy, and criticizes the Republican Party as prioritizing power over ideas.

Addis said he views himself as a change agent: For much of his career in energy, he was asked to figure out what’s wrong with a broken business and fix it or end it, or start a new business, he said. He also said he dislikes people in public office who avoid saying where they stand on an issue.

“I believe we need people with experience, who aren’t afraid to say ‘I don’t know,’ but always willing to say, ‘this is my point of view,’” Addis said in an interview.

Addis notes that, while with AEP, he ran the nation’s largest fleet of coal-fired power plants, but is still a believer that the world needs to aggressively take on climate change. While he agreed with the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris global accord - Addis didn’t view it as a serious step that would have put a dent in the problem - he said the United States needs to lead on the issue by plunging money into research to find solutions.

He also takes a dramatically different view of how to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law than the bill that the House GOP advanced. Addis‘ view revolves around the federal government underwriting catastrophic insurance coverage, preserving Medicaid for the poorest Americans and leaving private insurance plans to cover routine care.

Casey, a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, is popular with labor unions and was a staunch supporter of Obama’s signature policies. He plans to seek a third six-year term in next year’s election in a state where Democrats maintain a 4-3 ratio registration edge over Republicans.

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