In a news release, the normally affable Ott fires away with zingers like this. "Don Cunningham traveled the state for a year and a half, drumming up support for a planned gubernatorial race. He has more than $700,000 in his campaign war chest, but apparently he now lacks the time to drive seven minutes from his office to Muhlenberg in order to defend his record for the people of Lehigh County. Perhaps if we held the debate at a $500 per plate dinner for Philadelphia attorneys we could get him to show up, since we know he likes those."
"The residents of Lehigh County face a major tax hike in 2011, and Don Cunningham won’t say what he plans to do about it. His self-generated reputation as a fiscal conservative masks the reality of a budget that’s $19.2 million out of balance, reserve funds that will be utterly depleted in 2010, and an abject failure by Cunningham to make significant spending cuts. He’s been living high off Jane Ervin’s 70 percent tax hike, but in 2011 the party’s over and local residents get stuck with the bill.”
Cunningham's refusal to debate is bad for democracy, but unfortunately, it's also smart politics. As Ken Petrini astutely observes, "You can understand why Cunningham is reluctant to debate—he gains nothing. He has a wide lead. A debate between a clear front runner and a challenger can only help the challenger."
Ott goes on to complain about state for pass through money, suggesting that Lehigh County reject it. In a recent op-ed, he said we should move charity "out of the arena of entitlement and back to the realm of love." I'm sure that's music to a conservative's ear, but it also reflects a basic misunderstanding of county government. The state mandates most of these human services and funds the lion's share - approximately 80% - of the cost. Rejecting this pass through money, as Ott suggests, means Lehigh County would just have to fund these required services itself. County tax bills would instantly quadruple under Executive ScrappleFace. That's one hell of a price to pay for making a point with Harrisburg.
Scrappleface might want to think that one through before he faces Cunningham.