PA-01 Democratic candidate Christina Finello has withdrawn from a WBCB 1490 debate with Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, citing scheduling issues. The move comes after WBCB and the Fitzpatrick campaign agreed to a date the Finello campaign had previously offered.
Campaign managers for the Finello and Fitzpatrick campaigns began coordinating with WBCB staff in the second week of July. The plan involved an in-person debate at WBCB’s studio in Bristol Township.
WBCB 1490 has hosted these Congressional debates between candidates each election cycle since 2004, with the exception of former candidate Scott Wallace. Each candidate has agreed to a debate in mid-to-late August, regardless of political affiliation.
When WBCB reached out offering a debate in August to both campaigns, Fitzpatrick agreed. However, the Finello campaign insisted on a debate in the last two weeks of October.
Finello Campaign Manager Ali Anderson stated they wanted to host the debate closer to election day “at a time when the most voters will be engaged in the election.”
As a compromise, both campaigns offered dates in September. The Fitzpatrick campaign preferred the first week of the month, while the Finello campaign offered dates later in the month, including September 21.
The Fitzpatrick campaign stated the Congressman would be traveling back and forth from Washington D.C. once the House went into session on Sept. 8, making dates later in the month “difficult.”
WBCB 1490 extended an offer to both candidates to host the debate on Sept. 3 or Sept. 7. Staff at the station expressed concerns of potential future surges in coronavirus numbers, guideline changes from the governor, and changes in voting law.
New laws for this year’s elections allow for voters to request a mail-in ballot for any reason starting fifty days before election day. Bucks County Board of Elections Thomas Freitag confirmed the office hopes to send out mail-in ballots starting September 14.
The Finello campaign declined this invitation for a debate on Sept. 3 or Sept. 7, insisting voters would not be engaged Labor Day weekend. Following this, the Fitzpatrick campaign notified WBCB 1490 the Congressman would agree to a debate on Sept. 21.
When WBCB reached out to the Finello campaign about this date, the campaign waited a full week before responding. WBCB sent three separate inquiries during this time period.
“Apologies for the delay,” Anderson said Monday, “unfortunately, we did not hold any of the late September dates after the Fitzpatrick campaign said they were not available those days.”
However, Fitzpatrick Campaign Manager Matt Gruda never indicated these dates were out of the question. Instead, Gruda noted the general time of late September would be “difficult” and “jammed.”
Fitzpatrick campaign spokesperson Kate Constantini commented on the debate withdrawal in a statement to WBCB.
“It’s disappointing to see Christina Finello inexplicably drop out of a debate when she had already agreed to it, providing dates our campaign accommodated for and accepted. We wanted to provide her the chance to explain her support for defunding the police, allowing dangerous criminals to be released from prison, providing $1200 stimulus checks to illegal immigrants at a time when American families are struggling, and countless other extremist policies. Not to mention calling Nancy Pelosi a “role model”, “proudly” accepting Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement, and making it her goal to remove the most independent and bipartisan Congressman in U.S. history to be replaced with her far-left partisan agenda. She is making it clear to voters that, by first accepting and then withdrawing from this debate, she is either unwilling or unable to defend the entire premise of her campaign before the voters begin mail-in voting on September 14th. She has lost all credibility.”
WBCB News notified the Finello campaign twice regarding an intent to publish a story on their withdrawal but did not receive any comment.