By Konstantine Fekos
All of the controversy concerning Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District candidates’ debate schedules (or lack of) has extended in a new challenge submitted by Democratic nominee Missa Eaton.
“I challenge Mike Kelly to debate me in front of a community audience in every county of the district,” Eaton said in a press release on Monday. Both are running for the Third District seat: first-term incumbent Kelly, a Republican; and Democrat challenger Eaton of Mercer County. Independent Steven Porter of Erie County is also seeking the position. The Third District includes all or part of seven northwest Pennsylvania counties, including almost all of Crawford County.
Kelly agreed to a prerecorded televised debate at WQLN studios in Erie on Oct. 24, without community audience, a move Eaton found insufficient, as five of the seven district counties would “not have the opportunity to view the debate,” she said Monday.
“The constituents and voters of the Third District deserve to see Congressman Kelly and myself in a debate without having to drive outside their county to do so,” said Eaton, claiming debates in every county would allow more extensive local coverage and public access.
Tribune messages left with the Kelly campaign on Monday weren’t returned.
This call to action mirrors Porter’s challenge to both candidates, issued just days ago as a response to Eaton’s dropping out of the Meadville Tribune-sponsored Oct. 10 debate in Crawford County.
Her cancellation was attributed to Kelly’s refusal to debate in any forum except the one in Erie, according to Eaton’s spokesperson, Michael Yeatts.
“That not only broke their word to you and me, but most critically, to the public whom they profess to serve,” said Porter.
Porter rebuked the drop-outs of both candidates, listing them as political maneuvers to privatize the debate to the Democratic and Republican parties and avoid independent ideas.
“I’ve said yes to every debate; it’s my responsibility as a candidate,” said Porter on Monday in a telephone interview with the Tribune. “Now they’re agreeing to debate amongst themselves as if there’s no one else. Let the people know there’s an alternative.”
The televised debate is expected to air Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. on Erie-based WQLN-TV (Channel 54) and be rebroadcast Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. on WJET-TV of Erie (Channel 24). WQLN and WJET can be seen locally on Channel 13 and Channel 4 on the Armstrong cable TV system, respectively.