Harrisburg — In perhaps the greatest debate format ever, the first questions to Republican John McNally and Democrat Rob Teplitz came from candidates who lost the primary to each.
McNally and Teplitz are running for the open seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-Dauphin) and met Monday at the Midtown Scholar bookstore in Harrisburg.
The debate was hosted by non-partisan community group Harrisburg Hope and moderated by the organization’s President, Alan Kennedy-Shaffer. About 150 people attended.
It was highly entertaining and both candidates threw their fair share of punches – particularly over the issue of public school funding. For details about the policy issues discussed during the debate, check out these reports from Patriot-News and ABC 27.
PoliticsPA wants to share with you the hilarious first audience questions from vanquished primary candidates.
McNally won the 3-way April primary with 48.4 percent of the vote. Josh First came in second with 26.1 percent. Soon afterward, First suggested that voting machine tampering could have had something to do with it.
Here was his question:
“As immediate past-chairman of the Dauphin County Republican Party and a quintessential Party insider, you received unprecedented financial and logistical support from the Republican Party and elected officials in your primary campaign against two other fellow Republican candidates this spring. Knowing that you owe your success to their intervention, just how much will you actually be able to maintain independence from party leaders, as you say you will in your ads?”
McNally answered well, noting that unlike Teplitz, his was the only name on his yard signs (Teplitz’s campaign printed up Obama/Teplitz signs).
Alvin Q. Taylor is a consultant affiliated with Rutgers University and local churches. A perennial candidate, he lost to Teplitz by just 266 votes after he says Teplitz mislead voters by implying he had the Dauphin County Dems endorsement when he did not. Taylor is now running a write-in campaign.
Here was his ‘question’:
“For 12 years, Rob Teplitz, you have been the insider. Bob Casey suspended you for lying to him. You said you were ‘Steve from Linglestown,’” Taylor said, referring to a 2000 incident when Teplitz used a fake name during a PCN call-in show. “How can you explain to people here that, in 2000, I lied to Bob Casey, then, I got on the radio and talked about, ‘I am Steve from Linglestown.’”
“When we talk about ‘Steve from Linglestown,’ and your saying you are an endorsed candidate of the Democrats, you’re talking about deception of the voters. That’s why I’m running. Because you’re an insider.”
Teplitz chalked it up to inexperience, admitted he had made mistakes, and said he learned from them. “What you can be sure about me is that if I make a mistake I will be upfront about it, learn from it, and move on.”
McNally held his own, and threw a few good jabs in at Teplitz. He also said he’d have liked to see Taylor debating up on stage with both candidates.
But Teplitz came ready to fight, and wore McNally down by repeatedly noting that school choice and vouchers advocates were among McNally’s chief campaign supporters.
It was Teplitz’s home turf. Questioners in the unfriendly crowd of left-leaning Harrisburgers took their share of shots at McNally, particularly linking him to the since enjoined Voter ID law. McNally said he supported the law but that the 2012 injunction was a good thing. And McNally did not seem too pleased to answer a question about whether he would vote to cut funding for Planned Parenthood (he said he was 100 percent pro-life and opposed taxpayer funding for abortions, drawing shouts of “they already don’t”).
Both men are attorneys, both are insiders, but Teplitz scored the most points and McNally was happy to walk out of the room having avoided any serious missteps.