Corbett, you RINO! show us folks in Pennsylvania some respect and debate Mr. Rohrer!


Only two days before he was scheduled to make a rare appearance on the same stage as his Republican primary opponent, Tom Corbett backed out of a debate which has been on his schedule since March.

The event, which was to be co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), ABC-27 Harrisburg, and the PA Independent, was scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. After Mr. Corbett cancelled, Republican state Rep. Sam Rorher (R-Berks) was the only candidate planning to attend and PCN decided to cancel the event.

All six major party gubernatorial candidates had been invited to attend on March 10, and five - all except Democrat Dan Onorato - had originally confirmed their attendance. Two weeks ago, when ABC-6 in Philadelphia scheduled a gubernatorial debate for the same time, the three Democrats set to attend the Harrisburg event - Joe Hoeffel, Anthony Williams, and Jack Wagner - changed their plans.

After the Democrats dropped out of the debate, PA Independent managing editor Jim Panyard spoke with schedulers for the campaigns of Mr. Corbett and Mr. Rohrer. As of April 26, both had committed to attending the debate. On Wednesday, Mr. Panyard called the Corbett campaign to again confirm Mr. Corbett's attendance and was told by campaign manager Brian Nutt that Mr. Corbett did not plan on participating.

According to Mr. Nutt, there was a misunderstanding that caused the Corbett campaign to believe the debate had been cancelled. He told Mr. Panyard he had "given that time back" to the Attorney General, and attending the debate would not be possible.

The last-second decision to cancel one of the few face-to-face debates planned in the final weeks before the May 18 primary election is part of a developing trend, said Jeff Coleman, Mr. Rohrer's campaign director.

Mr. Coleman said Mr. Corbett has also cancelled an appearance at the Manheim Central Republican Committee (MCRC) in Lancaster County scheduled for May 8. He said the decision to not attend came after the organization extended an invitation to Mr. Rohrer to speak immediately after Mr. Corbett.

Contacted on Thursday, Charlotte Rissler, the committeewoman working on the MCRC event, said a member of the Corbett campaign called her on Tuesday and asked to have the Attorney General speak at the event. Corbett's campaign manager, Brian Nutt, said Thursday the campaign does not have any event in Manheim on its schedule this weekend.

Earlier this week, both Republican candidates were scheduled to speak for half an hour on a statewide radio program, but Mr. Corbett again backed out, giving Mr. Rohrer the full hour time slot.

"The goal has always been side by side comparison and let the Republicans in the state decide. The only real debate they've had was a two-question debate at the Republican state committee," said Mr. Coleman. "There hasn't been any opportunity to compare other than seeing how a candidate checks off a box on an issue."

Mr. Nutt said the two candidates have appeared together more than 15 times at debates and forums during the campaign, many of which were broadcast statewide. He denied that the Corbett campaign was avoiding confrontations with Mr. Rohrer, who trails by double-digits in many polls.

As for Friday's cancellation, Mr. Nutt attributed it to miscommunication within the Corbett campaign.

"What happened was, when everyone pulled out of the event, I assumed it was going to be cancelled, so I told the Attorney General's office they could have him for that time because they were looking for him to do some official business," said Mr. Nutt.

Mr. Rohrer fully intended to speak at the PCN-event, even if he was the only one who did so, until the network cancelled it, said Mr. Coleman.