The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

October 3, 2012

Eaton challenges Kelly to debates

3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT — Democrat Missa Eaton is challenging incumbent Republican Mike Kelly to a series of debates in every county in the 3rd Congressional District but the Kelly campaign isn’t biting.

Eaton’s challenge comes after Kelly’s campaign said the congressman was only participating in one scheduled debate Oct. 24 in Erie. That debate will be televised on Oct. 25 and 27 on Erie television stations, which only reach parts of the sprawling western Pennsylvania district.

“I challenge Mike Kelly to debate me in front of a community audience in every county of the district. The constituents and voters of the Third District deserve to see Congressman Kelly and myself in a debate without having to drive outside their county to do so,” Eaton said in a news release Monday.

“Debates where citizens have the opportunity to listen to both sides are crucial in our democracy,” Eaton told Kelly in a letter released Tuesday by her campaign.

Eaton noted that two years ago when Kelly was challenging then-U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper he insisted on debates, several of which were held, including one in Sharon that drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Mike Yeatts, Eaton campaign spokesman, said as of Tuesday they hadn’t heard anything from the Kelly campaign. He held out little hope that the congressman would take up the challenge but said he was working on lining up sponsors for potential matchups if Kelly accepts.

Asked if the debate challenge included independent candidate Steven Porter, who has expressed his willingness to participate in any and all candidate forums and criticized Kelly for limiting debates and Eaton for dropping out of a Meadville area debate after Kelly said he wouldn’t participate, Yeatts said it’s the campaign’s desire to just debate Kelly, but if sponsors invited Porter they wouldn’t object.

Yeatts said he thinks Kelly is limiting debates because he’s “afraid of his record.”

“He didn’t vote in the interests of his district,” Yeatts said. “He’s afraid because Missa Eaton has a plan – Mike Kelly does not.”

Asked to comment on Eaton’s challenge, Josh Wilson, Kelly’s campaign manager, said: “Our campaign is not interested in discussing any publicity stunt ‘challenges’ by our opponents.”

Previously, Wilson cited Kelly’s busy campaign and congressional schedule as the reasons the congressman wasn’t participating in debates other than the one in Erie.

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