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Don’t duck debates

August 30, 2018 Letters to the Editor

This year the voters deserve to be offered a clear choice for Congress: someone who will commit to protect Social Security and Medicare, stimulate jobs, and protect their community.

Congressman Mike Kelly clearly agrees — he has debated every Democrat he has ever run against. To his credit, this year his campaign took the lead in arranging for debates. So why won’t his opponent agree?

The Kelly campaign proposed three debates, covering all three media markets, at institutions that have hosted House debates professionally in the past: Mercyhurst University, Grove City College, and Butler County Community College. Nobody has ever had a complaint about these previously. I debated at all three and the arrangements were fair and beyond reproach. All the debates fit the congressional schedule. What’s the problem?

Kelly challenged Democrat Ron DiNicola (who skipped the key debate in the primary) on June 7 — then received no response to repeated contacts for two months. Then the challenger accused Kelly of being a “bully.” Now it’s the end of August and the schools are out of time.

Incumbents rarely agree to such generous debate arrangements: Gov. Tom Wolf has allowed only one!

DiNicola owes it to the public to talk serious issues in a rules-based format, rather than dodging neutral forums and questionnaires. DiNicola seems to only be comfortable mouthing left wing cliches to friendly audiences, and telling the Erie media that the congressional seat ought to go to Erie. Tom Ridge and I, like Kelly, always recognized that each county must have a voice in Washington.

I call on DiNicola to stop dodging debates, or Kelly should just debate an empty chair.

The writer was the 21st District and 3rd District House representative from 1995 to 2008.