Before a group of about forty slate belt residents, Dent moved smoothly from issue to issue, displaying a disarming casual manner combined with an impressing command of facts. Although Dertinger himself is no slouch, he simply was no match for Dent. Fortunately for Dertinger, this debate was not televised. I don't think a reporter was in sight. For that, Dertinger can thank his lucky stars. He should not complain too loudly about Dent skipping out on the LVLWV debate. Dertinger is AAA with potential, but Dent is definitely in the show.
It was a terrific evening for the spectators. Each candidate was permitted to make a brief opening statement. After that, a three member panel posed challenging questions, followed by inquiries from the public. After we all had our say, candidates were allowed to cross-examine each other.
There were actually three debates last night. Let me briefly describe them.
1) 15th Congressional District candidates: Charles M. Dertinger (D), Charles W. Dent (R) and Greta Browne (Green):- Dent Wins!
Although I've told you that Dent convincingly won this debate, it's not because I agree with his slightly conservative positions. He explained his negative campaign tactics by saying Dertinger had attempted to link him to convicted lobbyist Abramoff, a person Dent has never met. "One who throws stones should not live in a glass house." He also stressed that, like it or not, corruption has become an issue nationwide.
When questioned about Iraq, Dent responded there's a "right way and wrong way to leave." He opposes immediate withdrawal because that would make the world a far less secure place. Dertinger also opposes immediate withdrawal. "We can't just walk away." But Dertinger would also push hard for Rumsfeld's resignation.
Neither candidate was thrilled about impeaching Bush. Dertinger thought it was mean-spirited and Dent noted that impeaching a president in wartime would send the wrong message to our enemies. (I've got the best reason - if we impeach Bush, we get Darth Vader.)
The biggest surprise to me was Dent's enthusiasm about solving our energy crisis. He's all for using every available source of energy we've got, from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. He is a staunch advocate of hydrogen as an alternative (and cleaner burning) fuel source, and actually wants to convert I-78 into a "hydrogen highway." Is this hot air?
While Dent remained calm, Dertinger was unhinged a few times tonight. When questioned by Ron Angle about a county council vote, he lost his cool. "It's always great to have Ron ponificate on the issue of responsibility." From there, he started deteriorating further until the moderator stopped and reminded him we had all agreed to ask tough questions but remain polite. Dertinger also made the mistake of stating he had been "dragged into this race," and Dent wanted to know who "dragged you in. Sounds like you didn't want to do it. I'm here because I want to be here." At the end of the debate, Dertinger accused Dent of reading prepared answers from a script even though it was plain to all that the responses were extemporaneous. Dent just happens to know a lot, and Dertinger was grasping for straws.
2) 16th State Senatorial District candidates: Richard Orloski (D) and Pat Browne (R): - Orloski Wins!
Although they are both very cordial and unassuming, Rick Orloski was a pleasant surprise. He believes a LV medical school will bring us 450 quality jobs and improve our health care. He also proposes lobby reform, cutting the size of our legislature, and passionately defended unions when a right to work advocate, i.e. union buster, began complaining. He's an old pro at running for office. Will somebody please elect him? He laughed at himself throughout the night and was quite charming. I really regret that until last night, I never heard Orloski. He has terrific ideas and really cares about the community. Rick gets the edge on this one.
3) 18th State Senatorial District candidates: Lisa Boscola (D) and Bonnie Dodge (R): - Dodge Wins! (by default)
On Labor Day, Lisa Boscola personally committed to appear at last night's debate. But late yesterday, her office called the organizers and explained she had a scheduling conflict and would be unable to appear. This is the second debate she canceled this week. As an incumbent with tremendous name recognition and money, she apparently does not want to give her opponent, Bonnie Dodge, any visibility.
As much as I understand the political tactics, I believe Boscola's absence was insulting to the Pen Argyl Area Concerned Citizens and those of us who came to listen. She apparently will do her talking through scripted campaign ads funded by her $200 thousand warchest. This enabled Dodge to tell us, "I want to earn the seat. I don't want to buy it."
Although Bonnie Dodge is a right wing conservative, I don't doubt her sincerity and think her campaign is a breath of fresh air. Lisa is still the better candidate for someone with my views, but she disappointed tonight.