Down-ballot candidates for state House and state Senate are less visible than others, and many voters might not even know who is running.
One way to provide information directly to voters about any of the differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates is debates. Many debates, particularly for state legislative seats, don’t make it onto television, so candidate forums like the ones put on by the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh (LWV) can be the only time they get to see candidates in a neutral setting discuss issues.
But, even after several tries, there are at least eight candidates in the Pittsburgh area that won’t respond to requests about participating in a debate forum with the LWV. The LWV is so desperate to get candidates to respond to their requests that they put out a call to their members throughout the Pittsburgh region, hoping they can help pressure them to respond and hopefully attend.
All are Republicans, and three are incumbents currently serving as state Representatives. Five of the Republicans did complete the LWV Vote411 Response survey, but three (Sean Parnell, Devlin Robinson, Adrian Matthew Doyle) did not. Only one, John Waugh, responded to Pittsburgh City Paper to give a reason why he is avoiding the debate.
Another candidate, Danny DeVito (R-Carnegie), says he has reached out to his challenger, state Rep. Anita Kulik (D-Kennedy), and has offered to debate her on a neutral site on several occasions. He also says that is open to having the LWV moderate the debate, and reached out to them today.
The candidates and politicians that have not responded to the LVW are:
- Sean Parnell (R-Ohio Township), who is running for U.S. Congress in Pennsylvania's 17th congressional district. His opponent, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon), agreed to this debate, which would have been televised on WTAE. Parnell and Lamb did complete one televised debate in late September.
- Devlin Robinson (R-Bridgeville), who is running for state Senate in the 37th District, which encompasses Peters Township, most of the South Hills and Western Allegheny County. His opponent, state Sen. Pam Iovino (D-Mt. Lebanon) has agreed to participate in the LWV debate forum. Iovino sent a statement to CP and said she was personally disappointed in Robinson’s failure to attend a debate. "But even more so, I am disappointed for the voters in the 37th State Senate district who are being denied the opportunity to speak to and hear from the candidates in a debate,” Iovino continued. “You can’t claim to want to represent the people of a district, while at the same time deny them access to you. I think my opponent’s decision not to debate speaks for itself."
- John Waugh (R-Ross), who is running for state House in District 21, which stretches from Bloomfield to Aspinwall to Ross. He says he declined to debate “Based on my research of the organization (LWV), conversations with both other candidates and people in the district. It did not seem that a debate hosted by the LWV would be non-partisan. It's my opinion that a partisan debate would be unproductive.” His opponent, state Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville) agreed to participate in a debate.
- Rob Mercuri (R-Pine), who is running for state House District 28, which covers North Hills communities of Marshall, Pine, Franklin Park, and McCandless. His opponent, Emily Skopov (D-Marshall) has agreed to participate in the LWV debate forum. In a Facebook post, her campaign says it attempted to elicit a response from Mercuri on social media, but the Mercuri campaign blocked them on Twitter and removed comments on Facebook posts when Skopov supporters asked why he didn’t want to debate.
- State Rep. Valerie Gaydos (R-Aleppo), who is the incumbent in State House District 44, which includes Sewickley, Moon, and the surrounding area. Her opponent, Michele Knoll (D-Ohio Township), has agreed to participate in the LWV debate forum. Knoll says she is ready and willing to debate Gaydos, and set aside five dates to be available. “The voters of the 44th district deserve accountability and transparency from their government,” says Knoll. “I would welcome an open discussion about the issues facing the families of the 44th district and I would hope that any Elected Official would feel the same.”
- State Rep. Lori Mizgorski (R-Shaler), who is the incumbent in state House District 30, which covers Fox Chapel, Shaler, Hampton, and Richland. CP covered her refusal to debate in a story yesterday. She still has refused to respond to the LWV. Her opponent, Lissa Geiger Shulman, has agreed to participate in the LWV debate forum.
- State Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Upper St. Clair), who is the incumbent in state House District 40, which covers Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair, and Peters Township. Her opponent, Sharon Guidi (D-Peters), has agreed to participate in the LWV debate forum.
- Adrian Matthew Doyle (R-Brentwood), who is running for state House District 36, which covers most of Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods. His opponent, Jessica Benham (D-South Side), has agreed to participate in the LWV debate forum.
Two races in the area will be holding LWV debate forums upcoming.
On Sat., Oct. 10 from 8-9 p.m., U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) will be debating challenger Luke Negron (R-Bethel Park). LWV will be streaming this debate live on their Facebook page.
On Wed., Oct. 14 from 8-9 p.m., state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) will be debating challenger Jay Walker (G-Shadyside). LWV will be streaming this debate live on their Facebook page.