Wolf’s rejections of debates limit race to advertising wars

As it stands now, the public debating between Gov. Tom Wolf and his challenger, Scott Wagner, will be limited to an Oct. 1, 45-minute discussion at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry dinner in Hershey.

There is not even any assurance that TV stations wanting to cover the debate, being moderated by “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek, will be granted the opportunity.

While PCN intends to air the debate portion of the Chamber dinner live and its efforts are appreciated, most objective observers would expect many more televised debate opportunities for a gubernatorial race in a state the size of Pennsylvania.

With all due respect to Trebek, if that’s all there is for public consumption, it’s an embarrassment to the state.

Wagner’s campaign has accepted more than a dozen debate invitations, ranging from TV and radio stations to the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

Wolf has reneged so far on all of them.

We understand the political strategy.

Wolf, the incumbent, leads in the polls. He wants to limit opportunities of his challenger to confront him. He’s not the first incumbent who has attempted to run out the clock when leading in the polls.

Minus debates, voters are left with in-depth articles in newspapers – whenever we are allowed access for an in-depth look – and multi-million dollar advertising campaign material.

That may work for Wolf, but the plan should be viewed by all Pennsylvanians as disrespectful.

Tom Wolf was elected – hired, you could say – by a majority of voting Pennsylvanians to fix the state’s problems and lead it toward a better future.

Has he performed that task?

That’s debatable.

His administration has been marked by protracted, embarrassing budget skirmishes and there are no signs of fundamental changes that would solve looming pension woes, high taxes and economic development issues.

And that’s the point.

His performance in these areas and what a potential replacement would offer should be publicly debated.

If this campaign is going to be reduced to a battle between advertising campaigns because the incumbent believes a political war chest and voter registration is enough to win re-election without real debate, Pennsylvanians of all political stripes should ask themselves whether that is all they want from a governor.

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