Foes in Pa. 89th races debating debates

July 30, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With fewer than 100 days to the election, the candidates for the 89th District to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are debating about debates.

Democratic nominee Doug Harbach wants a series of formal debates, while GOP nominee Rob Kauffman says his campaign will concentrate on door-to-door politicking. Both men are running for the seat of Democratic state Rep. Jeff Coy, who will retire at the end of this year after 11 terms in office.

Harbach this week released a letter dated July 16 he sent Kauffman suggesting they participate in four debates in September and October in the communities of Roxbury, Pa., and Fayetteville, Pa., and at Wilson College and Shippensburg University.


"I am sure you will agree the voters would benefit from having and comparing our views, qualifications and leadership skills during joint appearances," Harbach wrote. The debates would be in addition to any sponsored by a local newspaper and the "format for debates would be open for discussion," he wrote.

In his response dated July 22, Kauffman wrote that he was "somewhat saddened by the political tone of your request. Your insinuation that I would not agree to public appearances is not only unfair, but wholly inaccurate."

"I never insinuated he was afraid of a debate," said Harbach, 44, vice president of e-LYNXX Corp. in Chambersburg. He said the letter was an invitation for the campaigns to work together to schedule debates.

"The focus of our campaign is going door-to-door to hear the concerns of voters and discuss the issues," Kauffman, a Greene Township supervisor, said Thursday. "We'll meet face-to-face, just not on his terms ... We're going to control our own campaign," he said.

Kauffman wrote that he intends to participate in two candidate forums that have been held in past campaigns, one sponsored by a local newspaper and the other by the Franklin County Farm Bureau. Kauffman also wrote that "should mutually manageable opportunities arise, I will be happy to consider more joint public appearances."

Kauffman said he will "respond affirmatively if it fits into our schedule," citing as an example an appearance the candidates will make before the Chambersburg Rotary Club in September.

Harbach said that will not be a debate, but a joint appearance by the candidates at a luncheon. Neither the newspaper nor farm bureau forums have been scheduled, he said.

"I think formal debates in a town hall setting are one of the ways for voters to compare candidates," Harbach said.

"We're getting requests. As they come in, we'll respond," Kauffman said.

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