As election season approaches, Centre County residents can look forward to two major candidate forums.
On Oct. 22, the Centre County League of Women Voters is hosting a political debate for state representative and senate candidates, and the Centre Daily Times will host a debate for U.S. Congressional district candidates. The LWV forum will start at 7 p.m. in the State College Borough Council chambers and the CDT forum will follow at 8:30 p.m.
But two major players will be missing from the congressional debate--Republican incumbents Glenn “GT” Thompson of the 15th District and Tom Marino of the 12th District.
Democratic candidates vying for congressional seats in the 15th and 12th District, Susan Boser and Marc Friedenberg, respectively, are the only attendees for the CDT’s forum.
Sue Werner, Candidates’ Night chair for the LWV, said candidates from the 171st, 76th and 81st state representative districts and the 34th state senate district will attend the LWV forum.
That includes State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte) and Democratic challenger Erin McCracken in the 171st; Democrat Mike Hanna Jr. in the 76th; State Rep. Richard Irvin (R-Spruce Creek), Democrat Richard Rogers and Libertarian Joseph Soloski in the 81st; and State Sen. Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) and Democratic challenger Ezra Nanes in the 34th.
Republican Stephanie Borowicz, who is running against Hanna in the 76th District, which serves both Centre and Clinton counties, has not told Werner whether she will attend.
And State Rep. Scott Conklin (D-Rush Township) won’t be attending because he is running unopposed in the 77th Legislative District and has a conflict the night of the forum.
Following Federal Election Commission guidelines, which say that candidates from both major parties must be present, the Centre County LWV could not host the congressional race debate without risking its non-profit status, and requested the CDT host it instead.
Marino’s campaign manager Ann Kaufman said in an email that Werner contacted her with an Oct. 23 date for candidates night, and “before we had an opportunity to respond, Susan contact [sic] us again notifying us the League of Women Voters would not be hosting a candidates night this year for Congressional races.”
Werner said she sent an invitation to Marino’s campaign manager in early August, which was then passed on to the scheduler. She talked to various people in Marino’s campaign and said the scheduler was very rude to her. She did not hear back for two weeks, and by that time, the LWV decided to cancel candidates’ night to avoid jeopardizing its non-profit status.
Marino has a reputation for not attending candidates’ nights, said Werner, and she feared from the beginning he would not attend. “You can look at the records and he just doesn’t participate,” she said.
Thompson’s campaign manager did not respond to request for comment. Werner said she sent two emails to Thompson’s campaign about the candidates’ night and never received a reply.
Friedenberg will host four town halls across the 12th District on Sept. 28.
“With the November 6th election just around the corner, it’s more important than ever that I be able to hear from voters, and that they see that I’m always available to them. While my opponent seems to be in hiding and has refused multiple debate invitations, I’m redoubling my efforts to be there for the people of the 12th District,” he said in a press release.
He will hit Lock Haven at 5 p.m. and be in State College by 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 28.
Boser is set to attend a number of town halls in the coming weeks and a PA Women Congressional Candidates Forum Sept. 27 in Bryn Mawr.
Thompson and Marino have no upcoming events currently posted on their campaign pages, though both attended events in the past couple of weeks.