There will be a debate between the two Democrats vying for their party’s nomination in the 120th House District, but an attempt to set up a debate in the 117th District failed after one of the two Republican candidates turned the invitation down, citing a family commitment.
The League of Women Voters Wilkes-Barre Area confirmed that Eileen Cipriani of West Wyoming and Gary Mack of Edwardsville will meet in the Buckingham Performing Arts Center at Wyoming Seminary on May 7 at 7 p.m. The winner of the May 20 primary election between them will likely face Republican Aaron Kaufer in the November general election.
Christine McLaughlin, a league board member, said the offer was made and accepted by the two candidates. She said the board will also be in contact with the Greater Hazleton Area League to see if a debate for the 119th District could be scheduled. That race has two Democrats, incumbent Jerry Mullery of Newport Township facing West Hazleton resident Tony Bonomo. The two have publicly agreed to debates though the hosts and locations have not been set.
In the only other contested primary race in the area — the 117th District, which encompasses portions of Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming counties — an offer to host a debate was made by The League of Women Voters of Lackawanna County. In an emailed invitation from the league, Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, and Dr. Davis Haire, a Meshoppen Republican, were asked to confirm their participation in a May 1 debate at Keystone College in La Plume Township. Haire responded in the affirmative while Boback said she has an out-of-town commitment regarding her daughter’s upcoming wedding and then other days between that day and the primary election are booked between personal and professional obligations.
Haire’s campaign went on the offensive this week, painting Boback’s rejection of the debate as a missed opportunity for Haire to delve into the issue of per diems and Boback’s record on job creation and the economy.
“I think taxpayers have a right to know how their hard earned money is spent,” Haire, 60, said. “Obviously Karen Boback believes that taxpayers aren’t worthy of an explanation.
“While people in this district are struggling to find work, and parents and grandparents watch their children move away for a lack of jobs, Karen Boback rides around in a car we pay for and collects per diem payments without receipts. I was hoping to at least get an explanation from her and have a chance to debate her record in Harrisburg,” said Haire, a practicing optometrist.
Boback, 62, said she ran on “family values” and “my daughter comes first.” Her daughter, K.C., is getting married in New York on May 10 and between being in session and the wedding duties “my schedule is booked.”
She said her record speaks for itself and she chided Haire for trying to spread falsehoods that she has a state car and takes all of the per diems she’s eligible for.
Boback said she did not have a state car, did not seek per diems for every night she spends in Harrisburg, though she’s eligible to, and pays for her own phone and laptop.
“I always do what I believe is in the best interest of the taxpayer.” Boback said.
Haire said that if he’s elected he will not use a state vehicle, nor will he accept per diems for meals, lodging and gas. He also pledged to limit himself to four two-year terms if elected and says he “will not take a state pension or benefits.”
The winner of the primary will face Democrat Laura Dickson, an auditor from Tunkhannock, in the fall.