By Nick Hildebrand
Herald News Editor/Weekends
3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT —
Frustrated with a lack of Third District debates, two candidates seeking to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly are planning public meetings that they hope will provide them a chance to get their message out to voters.
Democrat Missa Eaton, Sharon, announced plans this week for a “7 in 7” series of town hall-style meetings in every county in the Third District.
Her campaign is still nailing down locations to hold the meetings, but the tour is set to begin Saturday in Clarion County and wrap up Oct. 12 in Butler County, Kelly’s own backyard.
The Mercer County meeting is scheduled for next Thursday, with a time and place to be announced.
Thinking along the same lines, independent candidate Steven Porter, Wattsburg, Erie County, said Thursday he would hold a public forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Sharon City Building.
Both candidates are urging the public to attend the meetings and the media to cover them.
All three candidates are still scheduled to participate in a debate that’s being recorded for broadcast on Erie television stations on Oct. 25 and Oct. 27.
Meanwhile, Kelly, a Republican seeking his second term in Washington, unveiled his first campaign commercial via his Facebook page.
In the 30-second “Prosperity” spot Kelly identifies himself as a small businessman and says he supports job creators, opposes regulations, and wants American business to dominate world markets as he walks around an auto shop, presumably at the Butler car dealership he owns.
Kelly doesn’t identify himself as a congressman and doesn’t indicate he’s running for re-election.
Plans for a series of debates throughout the district were scrapped after Kelly said he would only participate in the Erie meeting. Kelly’s campaign cited a busy campaign and legislative schedule, though the House is adjourned until after the election.
Eaton, who had agreed to some of the other debates, pulled out because she said she was only interested in debating Kelly.
Porter, whose campaign is in part a protest of the two-party system that dominates American politics, spread the blame for the canceled debates to Eaton as well as Kelly.
Speaking to The Herald on Wednesday, Porter said that the Republican and Democratic candidates were working together to limit debates “so they don’t have to face Steven Porter.”