Wolf, Wagner Face Off In Only Gubernatorial Debate

With just 36 days left until Election Night, Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf faced off against Republican challenger Scott Wagner in the first and final gubernatorial debate in Hershey Monday night.

Governor Wolf agreed to only one debate – which has drawn criticism from many of his predecessors. In past election cycles, candidates would debate in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburg. Governor Wolf insisted that one debate would be enough.

Scott Wagner has drawn his own criticism this campaign season – but for another reason.

The York county republican has declined to release his tax returns, saying the dollar amount doesn’t matter.

The two met face to face in Hershey during the annual PA Chamber Dinner. Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy!, was the moderator. Trebek was noticeably sans beard.

The night started off with Trebek asking Governor Wolf which Eagle’s defensive lineman won back-to-back Super Bowls with two different teams, prompting laughter from the crowd. But the night quickly turned serious.

On The Issues:

Later in the night, the topic of the death penalty came up – of which Wagner is a supporter of. He cited incidents such as school shootings and the shooting of State Trooper Corporal Bryon Dickson II back in 2014. He said that people that commit these crimes have to pay. Trebek prodded Wagner further, asking why he didn’t feel so strongly about such incidents as the Pulse Night Club shooting.

“A life is a life, and someone needs to stand up for someone who’s lost a loved one. The person who takes that life should have to pay,” said Wagner.

Wolf countered – saying that he believes people need to pay – but does not believe the death penalty is the answer.

Wagner called the current map “a nightmare.” Trebek noted that the old map favored republicans (13 republican seats to 5 democrats) despite the commonwealth having more registered democrats. He also noted that no women were elected to Washington, something that will change this November; Mary Gay Scanlon (D) is facing off against Pearl Kim (R) for the seat in the 5th District.

Wolf said he believes this new map is positive for democracy. “If we had more competitive elections in our state, I think we would have higher turnover,” said Wolf.

The Campaign:

Governor Wolf has campaigned on a “different” kind of politician. His campaign adds focus on how Wolf still drives the same Jeep and lives in the same home as he did when first elected four years ago. They also tout that he doesn’t accept gifts from lobbyists. He has been endorsed by the State Troopers Association, Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters, ——–

Wolf has out-spent his opponent by about $10 million. Wagner is mostly self-funded.

Mr. Wagner is a former state senator who made history when he won his seat as a write in candidate in 2013. It’s been noted that Wagner has followed a President Trump method of campaigning and running as an outsider. He pledges to “take out the trash in Harrisburg,” a nod to his waste management business.

The Final Word:

Governor Wolf’s closing arguments focused on his track record with education, that he balanced the budget and made the first deposit into a “rainy-day fund” for the state in many years, and his continuing work with the opioid crisis. He also thanked Wagner for running, saying that was an important function of democracy.

Mr. Wagner got the final word, noting how efficient the staff at the Hershey Lodge was during the dinner, and telling the audience that Harrisburg is the complete opposite. “If elected, and I don’t get anything done in 4 years, I promise I will change my name to Tom Wolf!” declared Wagner while Trebek tried to cut him off and end the debate.

The Take Away:

The Annual PA Chamber is advertised as the “premiere gathering of Pennsylvania’s business leader and lawmakers.” Every four years, the dinner plays host to one of the gubernatorial debates. This year though, some took fault with how keynote speaker Alex Trebek moderated what he called a “conversation,” rather than a debate.

When Temple Update asked Scott Wagner and Tom Wolf’s teams how they thought the debate went, Wolf’s team said the thought he asked probing questions of both candidates – while Wagner’s team said that Trebek should stick to being a game show host.

While there are weeks left to this campaign, both teams said they plan to fight hard to the finish line. Governor Wolf’s team announced beforehand that he would not be personally speaking with the press following the debate. Temple Update attempted to speak with Mr. Wagner, but was denied access.

You can follow along with this race and many other Pennsylvania elections as we get closer to election day. Keep checking TempleUpdate.com for updates.

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