KINGSTON – Gene Stilp, Democratic candidate in the 11th Congressional District, is objecting to the League of Women Voters policy to not allow video recording at tonight's debate with Bill Vinsko.
The debate will be at Wyoming Seminary's Buckingham Performing Arts Center, Sprague Avenue, Kingston, at 7 p.m. The winner in the April 24 Democratic primary will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, in the general election on Nov. 6. Questions will be collected from the audience and relayed to the candidates through moderator and league board member Mischelle Anthony.
Susan Ferentino, president of the League of Women Voters, said the candidates and audience members will not be permitted to video/audio tape, but media is welcome to cover the event.
"This is done to ensure the nonpartisan reputation of the league and to protect candidates from any information that is shared at the event from being recorded and used for biased or ‘out of context' purposes," she said.
Vinsko said he felt it was wrong for Stilp "to condemn the league" for all the great work it does.
"Here you have a not-for-profit organization and a group of volunteers providing an opportunity for voters to see and hear the candidates," Vinsko said. "I think it's unfair for anyone to take shots at the League of Women Voters because they are doing this service free of charge."
Vinsko said he welcomes videos and free speech, but he will follow the league's policy. Stilp said he will not record the event.
Stilp at first thought the league was banning all recording at the debate, but learned Wednesday that media will be allowed to record the event. Stilp objected and sent a letter to Ferentino and Cheryl Dehaut questioning the elimination of the public's right to record sound and video at the debate.
Stilp said Wednesday that "transparency is necessary so that the voters can have as many facts as possible and that open recording would help the voters decide who they will vote for in the April 24 primary election.
"This is still a matter of First Amendment rights," Stilp said. "It's still a form of censorship. Anybody in the room should be able to record whatever they want."
Stilp asked the league to change its "new unfair policy" for tonight's debate.
"This is America. This is Pennsylvania. This is the Wyoming Valley," Stilp said. "We still have the First Amendment here, and the league should be fighting to enhance the First Amendment not to censor it."