Apparently Doug Mastriano meant what he said when he outlined his criteria for participating in fall debates.
The Republican candidate for governor declined an invitation from LNP | Lancaster Online to debate Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro on Oct. 18 in collaboration with Franklin & Marshall College and WITF. The trio proposed Stephen Medvic, professor of government and director of F&M’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, as the moderator with reporters from LNP and WITF on the panel.
The official response from the Mastriano campaign came in the form of an email from Kimberly Orr, who identified herself as his campaign scheduler. “Thank you for the debate invitation. Unfortunately, he will not be able to attend.”
The unofficial response came in the form of a radio interview with WHP-AM 580 on Thursday morning.
“I just got another invite last night from, you know, Lancaster news online,” Mastriano told host RJ Harris. “Are you kidding me? These guys have been inflammatory ever since I stepped my toe in politics. I mean, they’re a paper that listed, ‘Mastriano is all this …’ It’s typical left-wing stuff. They call me names. ‘He’s a hater. He’s this. He’s a supremacist.’
“There’s no way that those guys could be fair. And that they have the audacity, or stupidity for that matter, to think that they could honestly host a debate and that I’d be dumb enough to agree to go with such left-wing hacks that are so blind that it’s a cognitive bias — they don’t even realize how bad it is, I guess.”
“Our reporting on Sen. Mastriano has been thorough, fair and factual,” LNP executive editor Tom Murse responded. “It is important to note that Sen. Mastriano has made no claims that any of our reporting has been inaccurate.”
The Republican contender wrote to Shapiro earlier in the week, indicating that “my proposal should make it clear that I am eager to debate you on a level playing field. The old model of unfair debates run by the mainstream news media or hosts with a partisan agenda is not something I will entertain.”
Mastriano wrote that, in his opinion, GOP candidates often face a 2-on-1 trap in general election debates, noting that the media is “unpaid advocates and ideological allies of the Democrat candidates.”
The Republican candidate even provided a history lesson for Harris, noting “In 2018, even Alex Trebek couldn’t help himself but get in an argument with the Republican candidate (Scott) Wagner.”
“Doug Mastriano’s unserious proposal is an obvious stunt to avoid any real questions about his extreme agenda and record of conduct by dictating his own rules for debates,” responded Shapiro campaign spokesperson Will Simons.
Mike Straub, spokesperson from Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), said the Speaker of the House had no comment about his experiences with LNP. PoliticsPA also reached out for comment from Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-17), who represents Lancaster and York Counties, but has not received a response.
Mastriano also called out the Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY-FM, the NPR affiliate in Philadelphia.
Listen to the 10-minute interview.