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Kelly asks DiNicola for three debates

Congressman Mike Kelly (R-Butler) has reached out to opponent Ron DiNicola to ask for three debates this fall in the new PA-16.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly said the debates will give the most voters possible a chance to learn each candidate’s platform and make an informed decision in November.

In a letter sent to the campaign of his Erie-based challenger, Kelly wrote that the debates will give voters the best opportunity to learn more about each candidate’s platform before making their choice on Election Day.

“For more than seven years, I have had the honor to represent the people of Western Pennsylvania,” Kelly said in a press release. “I look forward to this opportunity to talk about how I have been working on their behalf to create an environment for economic growth in our region.”

In his letter to DiNicola, Kelly added that he even “took the liberty of confirming the availability of each of these venues and corresponding dates.”

All three are scheduled for weekday evenings in October — at Mercyhurst University, Grove City College and Butler County Community College.

Citing busy schedules and responsibilities to constituents, incumbents often leave it up to their challengers to chase them down for debates. Sometimes, it’s hard to get a sitting congressman or senator to agree to a set schedule, especially months in advance.

Tony Coppola, DiNicola’s campaign manager, said he sees the move as a good sign for his candidate.

Coppola said Kelly’s entire career has been spent working on behalf of special interests — including his own — and the debates with DiNicola will give voters a clear choice.

“I think Congressman Kelly is concerned and knows he’s in for a fight,” Coppola said Friday.

The DiNicola campaign already had been working on its own planned debate schedule, he said, and representatives from both sides will be in touch soon to settle on “mutually agreed-upon times and locations.”

Democratic challenger Ron DiNicola’s campaign sees the debate schedule a little differently. They believe it shows Kelly is worried about his seat.

While the DiNicola campaign sees the debates as a sign of Kelly’s vulnerability, Kelly Campaign Finance Director Ann Coleman said the congressman simply wants a chance to reach out to voters in three large media markets. This allows both campaigns to reach the maximum number of constituents.

“We have a huge district,” she said Friday afternoon. “And he wants to make sure he’s available to everyone.”

Coleman was adamant that Kelly does not feel threatened by recent Public Policy Polling results, conducted on behalf of the DiNicola campaign, that show the Democratic challenger within striking distance.

The two are “absolutely not” related, she said.

In a press release accompanying Kelly’s letter to DiNicola, the congressman said he’s all about straight talk and common sense, and he believes that attitude will resonate with voters.

8 Responses

  1. The PPP poll is wishful thinking. Sharing a stage with Kelly is the last place a Kelly opponent would want to be.

  2. It would have been nice to see the challenger just graciously accept the offer. He could have still clarified that the dates and places need to be confirmed as mutually beneficial. I think it would have bought him points for civility. Maybe Kelly is concerned about the polls, maybe he isn’t. But so what? Not long ago, the offer of a debate by one opponent was always met with a “hey, thanks. Sure, I’d love to challenge your positions with mine. Look forward to it.” Nowadays, ever action and comment is perceived (or spun) as a battle cry.

  3. This is laughable: “Democratic challenger Ron DiNicola’s campaign sees the debate schedule a little differently. They believe it shows Kelly is worried about his seat.”

    Incumbents try to avoid debates. Challengers are desperate to get them. Kelly wouldn’t offer one, much less three, if he weren’t confident of outclassing DiNicola. Based on the latter’s posturing “response,” one suspects that DiNicola knows he’s toast.

    1. It *absolutely* shows Kelly is worried about DiNicola. Kelly is a Congressman. He gets headlines by making a statement about the weather. DiNicola is a challenger in a district no one thinks is even a race. He has to throw bombs to get headlines.

      The only, only reason Kelly offers any debates is he is afraid of losing *unless he doesn’t have a debate.* I’m sure he thinks he’ll win them. But he wouldn’t offer to do them unless he thought he had to.

      1. Nice spin from Philadelphia. The local reality is that Kelly is showing his (justified)confidence. He clearly started scheduling these college debates before the push poll was released. And it’s significant that DiNicola hasn’t accepted. DiNicola skipped several joint appearances with his primary opponents.

  4. Listen. I think that Mike Kelly probably wins re-election. But the idea that this polls drops showing a race, and Kelly *offering* three debates… The idea that those two are unrelated is malarkey.

  5. Kelly has always debated his opponents, and can easily hold his own against DiNicola-who was last on the ballot when the Macarena was in the Top 40.

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