Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato has sent a letter to his Republican counterpart asking for a series of 14 debates/forums leading up to the November election. Onorato, who is currently the Allegheny County Chief Executive, says Harrisburg is broken and the voters need as much information about the candidates as possible to make their decision in an election he says will have a huge impact on the state’s future. Onorato has asked Republican Tom Corbett, who is also the current PA Attorney General, to agree to hold at least 2 forums in each of the state’s 7 media markets. Specifically Onorato is calling for-
* One in Philadelphia and one in the Southeastern Pennsylvania suburbs;
* Two in the Lehigh Valley;
* One in Scranton and one in Wilkes-Barre;
* One in Pittsburgh and one in another part of Southwestern Pennsylvania;
* Two in the Harrisburg-York-Lancaster area;
* Two in Erie/Northwestern Pennsylvania; and
* One in Johnstown and one in Altoona.
Onorato has proposed that the debates be sponsored by independent, non-partisan groups and that each event focus on a specific topic including jobs and the economy, fiscal discipline, and government reform. The Democrat says he will agree to any format as long as it allows the voters to fully understand the candidates’ positions. The letter sent to Corbett’s campaign reads in part, “As we begin the General Election campaign for Governor, Pennsylvania is facing deep economic and fiscal challenges and the Commonwealth’s citizens have lost confidence in state government’s ability to help solve these problems. It is more important than ever that Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to hear us discuss and debate critical issues and describe our records and our detailed plans for Pennsylvania’s future.” Onorato proposes the debates be held starting in August. He says he does not think the ongoing “Bonusgate” investigation and prosecution should have a limiting impact on the debates. “If Tom wants to have a debate on how you reform government, bring it on, because my record is stronger than anybody’s and I love it,” says Onorato
Onorato says he has not had any conversations about the debates with the Corbett camp bust says he assumes the Republican will be willing to meet. He points to the more than 30 debates held during the primary as the basis for his assumption. Some of those debates included members of both parties, other focused on just the Republicans or just the Democrats.
Corbett campaign spokesperson Kevin Harley calls the letter and accompanying news conference a “media stunt.” He says, “We will have debates. However, the number of debates, the dates and locations, will be determined thought adult negotiations between the campaigns.” Harley says he will not comment on the preferred number, time or location. He says the move shows that Onorato has set a tone of attacking Corbett as his way of getting more name recognition statewide.