Communication problems further disenfranchised an already skeptical State Rep. Rob Kauffman when he declined an invitation to debate his opponent Susan Spicka at an event at Shippensburg University.
According to Ethan Goldbach, president of the SU Student Association, identical invitations were sent to both Kauffman and Spicka on Sept. 7 on behalf of College Republicans, College Democrats and the non-partisan group Ship Votes.
Spicka accepted the invitation upon receipt of the letter. Goldbach did not hear anything from Kauffman until the Shippensburg News Chronicle contacted Goldbach with the information that Kauffman had not received the invitation and he was not interested.
Kauffman told the Shippensburg News Chronicle that he thought the event was a “publicity stunt,” citing the fact that Spicka’s husband is a professor at SU and the professors’ union has endorsed Spicka.
Goldbach followed up with an apology for the lack of receipt and Kauffman’s interpretation of the nature of the event. An invitation was then sent via email, but at that point, Kauffman had already expressed his skepticism and unwillingness to participate.
“It is not only unfortunate, but unprofessional, that I learn about an invitation such as this through the press. That immediately calls the intentions of the event into question and, therefore, I stand by my public decision and statement,” Kauffman replied to Goldbach via email.
“It’s a shame he doesn’t feel comfortable coming to campus,” Goldbach said. He noted the non-partisan nature of the event and that both invitations stated that both candidates could pick a moderator that they agree on.
Goldbach says the invitation was sent to Kauffman’s district office in Chambersburg, and he suspects the political nature of the invitation caused a conflict that led to Kauffman not formally receiving it.
“Specifically regarding receipt at my legislative office, I can definitively say that no correspondence was received from Mr. Goldbach by my legislative offices, nor any address affiliated with me,” Kauffman said. “Receiving an invitation and appropriate follow-up, prior to press involvement, would have made my involvement much more likely.”
Democratic candidate Spicka plans to do a number of speaking events in response to Kauffman’s refusal to debate. The events will be focused on Spicka’s stance on issues and Kauffman’s voting record on those issues.
Kauffman currently has no interest in a debate with Spicka, but in his email to Goldbach, he referred him to a debate between the two candidates from July 9 that can be found online here.