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Debate's a no, but barbs are a go in Pa. House race

September 20, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The two 90th District candidates for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives might not ever debate on a stage - or really appear in the same room together - but that hasn't stopped them from throwing barbs this week.

"I really have no desire to be next to him," Republican nominee Todd A. Rock said.

"He doesn't have a plan. He doesn't have a platform. And he doesn't have a clue," incumbent Patrick E. Fleagle said.

Fleagle, a Republican, will appear on ballots as a Democrat after losing the GOP primary to Rock but garnering enough write-in votes to appear as the Democratic candidate.

The pair didn't debate before the primary election and are not scheduled to do so before the general election in November that will determine who fills the seat.

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Both candidates confirmed that several offers for debates and forums have been made, yet none have come to fruition.

Fleagle pinned it on Rock's "refusal" to debate and organizations' failure to step up for hosting. Rock said he prefers door-to-door campaigning and won't even consider a debate while Fleagle accepts legislative perks.

The pair had made moves toward debating during the first week in October, but Rock ultimately declined to do so.

"I'm not going to give him a platform to give him any kind of publicity," Rock said.

Besides, he said, most of the people who attend debates already have selected a candidate and the rest read the responses filtered through a newspaper.

Fleagle said he participated in forums in 1988 and 1994 and is "very disappointed" to not do so this election.

"I'll debate Todd anywhere, anytime. You would think someone who is running for a public office and is challenging an incumbent would want a debate," Fleagle said.

People wanting to serve the public should be comfortable addressing it, he said.

"He either has something to hide or is afraid of me," Fleagle said.

Key issues Fleagle would like to debate are experience, education, tax reform and changes to legislative benefits, while Rock said voters tell him their No. 1 issue is government reform and legislative perks.

"People want change, and Pat is still sticking to this old-school mentality that 'I deserve these things,'" Rock said.

Fleagle confirmed he uses a fleet lease vehicle and submits forms for mileage reimbursement. Business mileage usually totals 80 percent of the vehicle's use a month, and personal use is paid for from salary, he said.

Lodging and meals while in Harrisburg, Pa., or while traveling fall under per diems and can total $140 a day, Fleagle said. He said he receives free health care and contributes 7 percent of his pay to pension.

Yet, Fleagle maintains his opponent also receives perks through his job at the Franklin County (Pa.) Career and Technology Center.

"If he'd spend as much time working on problems as other people getting perks, maybe he'd get something done," Fleagle said.

He also touts his community service record, saying Rock "hasn't done anything in his life."

Rock has been visiting houses - nearly 10,000 since announcing his candidacy, he said.

"People really love a grassroots campaign. ... I'm going to win it this way," Rock said.

While the pair might not fight it out behind microphones, at least some residents have joked about another way to battle after learning Fleagle is participating in a charity wrestling match on Oct. 7 in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

"Everyone wanted me to bring in his opponent, Rock, and have them in together," event organizer Mike Pryor said with a laugh.

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