This year’s race for governor of Pennsylvania is turning into a pathetic spectacle. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and his Republican challenger, former state Sen. Scott Wagner, seem to be out to see who can stoop the lowest. Right now, Mr. Wagner seems to be winning this race to the gutter, but Mr. Wolf is hardly setting a good example himself, and with weeks to go in this race, Mr. Wolf might well end up as the greater profile in cowardice.
When Mr. Wolf was trying to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett four years ago, he wanted plenty of debates in the general election. That’s no surprise; challengers usually want debates and incumbents usually don’t. Ultimately, they debated three times. Mr. Wolf would have liked more debates, but he was still able to defeat Mr. Corbett in the general election.
This year, Mr. Wagner started off with the crazy talk in the general election, asking for 67 debates, one in each of Pennsylvania’s counties. Since Mr. Wagner resigned from the state Senate to devote his time to campaigning, he had time for this. He could hope that he would wear Mr. Wolf down and eventually get him to make some gaffe that would cause him to lose support.
But since Mr. Wolf is staying busy as governor, he does not have that kind of time. No reasonable person would expect the holder of this office to accept 67 debates. That would be ridiculous no matter what, but it was even more ridiculous since Mr. Wagner made the challenge in late May, meaning there would be an average of nearly three debates a week between then and the election had Mr. Wolf accepted.
Mr. Wolf has agreed to participate in a 45-minute debate to be moderated by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, which is scheduled for Oct. 1 at the annual Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry dinner in Hershey. But after agreeing to that, his campaign said that Mr. Wolf would not participate in any other debates. Quite simply, Mr. Wolf owes us more than this. He should agree to more debates — at least the three that Mr. Corbett agreed to. And at least one of these debates ought to include Libertarian Party nominee Ken Krawchuk and Green Party nominee Paul Glover, who were not invited to the Oct. 1 debate. Also, with all due respect to Mr. Trebek, a game show host who has never lived in Pennsylvania is not the right person to preside over the debate.
But just when Mr. Wagner appeared to have the moral high ground, he refused to answer reporters’ questions as he left a Pennsylvania Press Club lunch on Monday, Aug. 27. Reporters were questioning him about how much he pays employees at his nonunion waste hauling company, Penn Waste. It’s a legitimate subject to question him about, seeing as how Mr. Wagner has refused to release his tax returns and was recently recorded on tape telling supporters that if he were to release his tax returns, the information would be used by union organizers trying to win over the support of his employees.
It’s also worth noting that Mr. Wagner has refused to give up management of Penn Waste if elected. That would be an immense conflict of interest, since the waste hauling industry is heavily regulated by the state. Mr. Wolf, to his credit, stepped down as chief executive of his family’s business to focus on running for governor and resigned from the board altogether once elected. But Mr. Wolf ’s refusal to face Mr. Wagner, Mr. Krawchuk and Mr. Glover in debates is enough reason to be angry at him.
Most likely, Mr. Wolf will be re-elected; incumbents usually win and Mr. Wolf has held a comfortable lead in independent polls. But with Mr. Wolf and Mr. Wagner vying for the gutter, who could blame Pennsylvanians who choose to vote for Mr. Krawchuk or Mr. Glover? Or who could blame Pennsylvanians for writing in a name? A name like “Anita Bath” could be a good choice.
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.