It was a great thing that Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument and Democratic challenger Bill Troutman got together for an hour and a half and debated the issues. The debate was organized by LNP Media Group, which owns The Elizabethtown Advocate, and the Lancaster Chamber, a business group. Mr. Aument and Mr. Troutman spent their time in a polite discussion of the issues that allowed the public to see where they agreed and where they disagreed.
Likewise, we’ve seen some lengthy debates between incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker and Democratic challenger Jess King. One was organized by LNP and one by WGAL-TV. These long-form debates gave citizens a chance to get to know the candidates beyond slickly produced television commercials and mailers.
Both of these were in marked contrast to the debate between incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican challenger Scott Wagner. Host Alex Trebek spent far too much time talking, speaking for longer than either candidate. Republicans were right to ask Mr. Wolf to agree to another debate under those circumstances and Mr. Wolf should have accepted. He did, after all, say multiple debates were an important part of the process four years ago when he was the challenger to incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
But even with as little speaking time as the gubernatorial candidates got, it was far more of a public airing of their positions than we’re getting in many other races. The local races for state representative are a prime example. WGAL-TV, to its credit, has invited the candidates to face off in the TV studio. But with so many races for state representative, the TV station is limiting the time to 10 minutes for each district.
Smaller news organizations with a more local focus can devote more attention to these hyperlocal races, and that’s precisely what The Elizabethtown Advocate tried to do. The Advocate invited 98th District incumbent state Rep. David S. Hickernell and 37th District incumbent state Rep. Mindy Fee, both Republicans, to debate their challengers. Mr. Hickernell emailed back on Oct. 11, saying, “We both have prior commitments that evening and will not be able to attend. As you can imagine, our legislative and campaign schedules become very busy in the final weeks before Election Day. We do however, plan to participate in the WGAL debates later this month. Thank you again for kind your invitation.”
That seemed quite reasonable, but the Advocate wrote back to both Mr. Hickernell and Ms. Fee, asking them to propose an alternate date – either evening or daytime, whichever works for them, so the citizens would have more than 10 minutes of the candidates discussing the issues. Surely with more than three weeks to go, they couldn’t possibly be booked every hour of every day with things that couldn’t be moved.
And they never wrote back.
Mr. Hickernell and Ms. Fee should look to the good examples set by Mr. Aument, Mr. Troutman, Mr. Smucker and Ms. King rather than imitating the bad example set by Mr. Wolf.
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.