Categories Op/Ed

Editorial: More Debates a Good Idea, But Not With Empty Chair

Scott Wagner, the Republican candidate for governor, is once again calling for more debates with Gov. Tom Wolf, the Democratic incumbent.

That’s no surprise.Candidates who are trailing in the polls usually want more debates. Candidates who are leading usually want to limit their exposure to unpredictable events. It’s certainly bad form for Mr. Wolf to agree to only one public appearance with Mr. Wagner, but it is sadly normal behavior in politics today.

Mr. Wagner’s latest rationale for more debates is that Alex Trebek, the game show host who moderated the event on Monday, Oct. 1, in Hershey, was widely panned for his performance. Even Mr. Trebek acknowledged he got no new information from the candidates.

“If you were a Wagner supporter before the debate, you still are. If you were a Wolf supporter before the debate, you still are,” Mr. Trebek said in an interview with CBS. “If you were a Trebek supporter before the debate, that one may be questionable.”

Now Mr. Wagner is challenging Mr. Wolf to a couple of rematches. What’s more, he said he will do it with or without Mr. Wolf.

“If Governor Wolf declines my offer, I’m willing to stand on the stage with a moderator and an empty chair next to me,” a news release quoted Mr. Wagner as saying.

Hold on, Mr. Wagner. You and Mr. Wolf are not the only candidates in this race. Television stations are unlikely to give air time to a man debating an empty chair, but why not invite Green Party nominee Paul Glover and Libertarian Party nominee Ken Krawchuk to debate you? Such a three-way debate would at least be interesting and would be far more likely to cajole Mr. Wolf into joining in.

But Mr. Wolf has no monopoly on displaying poor form in this campaign. Mr. Wagner’s refusal to release his tax returns and his refusal to agree to put his business into a blind trust if elected are troubling. Mr. Wagner’s trash hauling business is heavily regulated by the state and heavily dependent on government contracts. His attempt to be elected governor while continuing to manage such a business gives the appearance of cutting out the middleman from crony capitalism. Instead of having the plutocrat controlling a crony, the plutocrat is put directly in charge.


The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethown Advocate. Other opinions on this page are those of individual contributors. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.

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