Philadelphia Inquirer | 01/14/2006 | Casey and Swann not rushing to meet rivals in debates: "Posted on Sat, Jan. 14, 2006
Casey and Swann not rushing to meet rivals in debatesLesser-known candidates for Senate and governor accepted dates before the party endorsements.By Peter JacksonAssociated PressHARRISBURG - Attempts to organize debates among would-be challengers to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Rendell before the party endorsements are running into resistance from two of the best-known candidates.
State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., picked by Democratic leaders in the Senate to take on Santorum, will sit out a Jan. 23 debate in Harrisburg, reducing it to a face-off between lesser-known Democrats Chuck Pennacchio and Alan Sandals.
Campaign manager Jay Reiff said Casey intended to debate his rivals after each had gathered the 2,000 signatures needed by March 7 to qualify for the May 16 primary.
"Bob has made it clear that he will debate whoever is on the ballot" at least once, Reiff said yesterday.
Lynn Swann, a former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver who declared his candidacy for governor this month, has not committed to a Jan. 25 Republican debate in Harrisburg that former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III and retired business advocate Jim Panyard have agreed to attend.
Swann remains willing to debate his rivals before the Republican State Committee issues its endorsement Feb. 11, campaign spokeswoman Melissa Walters said. "We just have yet to come to a decision" about the Harrisburg event, she said.
"We are the only debate prior to the Republican endorsement," said Paula Harris, president of a Harrisburg educational-services company that is the debate's lead sponsor. "If I was a political candidate, I would at least give a yes or a no."
If Swann decides not to participate, Scranton may pull out, said Tim Kelly, a Scranton campaign spokesman.
The Democratic State Committee is to make its endorsements on March 25.
Pennacchio, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, accused Casey of avoiding public discussion about his positions, such as his opposition to abortion rights, that are similar to Santorum's.
"He can't reveal his true politics," he said.
Santorum, who trails Casey in independent polling, last fall challenged Casey to 10 debates. But Santorum declined the League of Women Voters' invitation to an early debate against his only known primary challenger, John Featherman, until Featherman has qualified for the ballot.
"Rick Santorum is doing what is ultimately best for his campaign," Featherman, a Philadelphia real estate broker, said yesterday. "We want to make the case that we are the [Republicans'] best chance to beat Bob Casey.""