Bucks County congressional candidates disagree over debate days — politely

    Pennsylvania's 8th District Congressional candidates Steve Santarsiero (left) and Brian Fitzpatrick.

    Pennsylvania's 8th District Congressional candidates Steve Santarsiero (left) and Brian Fitzpatrick.

    After signing a “civility” pledge not to attack each other during their campaigns, candidates in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District race are sparring — politely.

    In dueling press releases, both issued challenges to publicly debate the other in June. Of the 16 total dates and times proposed, none overlap.

    Democratic state Rep. Steve Santarsiero’s camp went first; he said the dates his opponent, Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, released in response are all times he has to work.

    “They’re all on session days, when the state legislature is in session, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., making it virtually impossible for me to participate,” he said. “I don’t think I should have to skip a session day to debate in this race.”

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    In the press release proposing his preferred debate dates, his spokesman reiterated Fitzpatrick’s commitment to having a public dialogue.

    “After our initial call for debates immediately after the primary election, our opponent responded by requesting a series of six debates. Brian Fitzpatrick wholeheartedly accepts that challenge,” said Athan Koutsiouroumbas in the release.

    Santarsiero’s camp release, issued last Wednesday, offered the following dates for an evening debate: June 9, 12, 18, 19, 22, 23, 25 and 26.

    In response, Fitzpatrick’s spokesman proposed the following dates, “to occur any time between the hours of 11a.m. and 3 p.m. : June 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, and 21. Additionally, we are available on June 22 for a lunchtime debate between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.”

    This month, the Pennsylvania legislature is in session June 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.

    Koutsiouroumbas did not return calls or emails asking for comment, but did issue yet another press release on Friday, suggesting Santarsiero could call into a radio debate in the middle of the day on June 22. 

    “As June 22nd will be a radio debate,” said Koutsiouroumbas, “Mr. Santarsiero can easily call-in and participate from wherever he may be.”

    In response, Eric Goldman, a spokesman for Santarsiero, reiterated that the candidate would be working during the day, but would be happy to debate during the evening with an agreed upon moderator.

    “They don’t want to debate,” said Goldman. “They’re just trying to score political points.”

    The two campaigns have not tried talking to each other to schedule a debate following these releases to the press. It is unusual to have a debate in a general election race before Labor Day.

    Brian Fitzpatrick, a former accountant and FBI agent, is the brother of incumbent Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who is stepping down after his fourth term serving the district covering all of Bucks and a portion of Montgomery County.

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