As Congressional Race Heats Up, Candidates Spar Over Debates

Brian Fitzpatrick and Scott Wallace.
Credit: Tom Sofield/NewtownPANow.com

The midterm elections are getting closer and the challenge for who will hold the First Congressional District seat is heating up.

Last Friday, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s campaign challenged Democratic candidate Scott Wallace to an on-air debate that would be aired on WBCB 1490 AM. The debate was scheduled for this Friday but will not happen.

“Come debate Brian Fitzpatrick in Levittown and answer some tough questions in front of blue-collar, middle-class Americans. Your days hiding in the shadows with your millions of dollars in inherited corporate money are over,” Fitzpatrick’s campaign said last week.

Wallace and his campaign told NewtownPANow.com the notice from the Fitzpatrick campaign came on too short of notice and that the candidate’s scheduled was booked up.

“I’m eager to debate the issues,” Wallace said.

“There is only one reason why Scott Wallace ‘can’t find the time’ in his wide-open schedule this Friday to debate Congressman Fitzpatrick and allow our community to listen: Scott Wallace has absolutely no desire to release his tax returns, he has absolutely no desire to limit money in politics, and he has absolutely no desire to pledge with Congressman Fitzpatrick to donate millions to Bucks County charities,” Fitzpatrick’s campaign said after Wallace told this news organization he would not attend.

“This is a political stunt – Scott has agreed to three debates and multiple forums and he’s looking forward to debating Rep. Fitzpatrick on the issues that matter to the voters of PA-01 – and looking forward to seeing Brian Fitzpatrick try to defend his record of voting with special interests over the needs of his constituents,” Wallace campaign spokesperson Zoe Wilson-Meyer said.

Wallace recently signed the Town Hall Pledge that encourages candidates to hold a minimum of four town hall meetings per year if elected. As of this week, Wallace has held numerous campaign gatherings but no town hall events in the vain of those held by many in elected office. However, large town hall-style campaign events have not been staples of congressional races in the district in recent years. 

During his first term, Fitzpatrick has held one town hall event in Bensalem. He has been criticized by Republican and Democratic primary candidates for not holding more town halls.

In spring, Fitzpatrick’s office said he regularly holds telephone town halls and attends events in the district that spans all of Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County.

Fitzpatrick and Wallace have yet to publicly debate one another but have separately held events featuring crowds of mainly their supporters.

Fitzpatrick and Wallace are expected to take part in the Bucks County Community College debate this fall and a League of Women’s Voter forum. In addition, both will take part in various public events. 

Fitzpatrick debated then-challenger Steve Santarsiero in August 2016 on WBCB and at Bucks County Community College two months later while both also took part in area forums. Previously, WBCB debates have occurred but they are not regular fixtures of the election season. In 2010, there was a radio debate featuring the Republican primary candidates and then-Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick faced off against challenger Patrick Murphy on-air in 2006.

Both candidates have been busy in recent weeks hitting the campaign trail and a number of businesses and events. Wallace was part of a Democratic women’s event in Falls Township Tuesday evening.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for five years for both newspaper and online publications. In 2012, Tom was honored at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation's Keystone Press Awards for his coverage of President Obama's visit to Falls Township in 2011. When he's not covering news in the area, Tom enjoys checking out the newest restaurants and bars, exploring forgotten places of industry in the area, going to local parks and spending time with his friends and family. If there's one thing you should know about Tom, he is a local news junkie through and through. Email: tom@newtownpanow.com Phone: 215-431-1001