We Have No Respect?
There will be no debate this year between the candidates running in the 13th Congressional District.
The Northeast Times planned to sponsor a debate on Wednesday, Oct. 11, featuring Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Republican challenger Raj Bhakta.
The hour-long debate was to have taken place at the Lafayette-Redeemer retirement community, at 8580 Verree Road.
Bhakta, who starred in The Apprentice 2 on television, accepted the invitation. Schwartz, who was elected two years ago, declined.
"Raj has demonstrated through his behavior that he has no respect for the voters of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County," said Schwartz campaign spokeswoman Mary Horstmann. "Campaigns are about honesty, serious discussion on the issues and respect, yet Raj has chosen instead to campaign as this race was just the next step in his reality TV show career."
Two years ago, the Times sponsored a debate at Abraham Lincoln High School. Schwartz joined Republican Melissa Brown, Libertarian Chuck Moulton and the Constitution Party’s John McDermott on stage.
That year, the seat was open — incumbent Democrat Joe Hoeffel stepped down to make an unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter — and Schwartz and Brown fought a fierce battle that the Democrat ultimately won handily.
This year, Schwartz has a huge fund-raising advantage on her opponent. Republicans, who are struggling to maintain control of the House of Representatives, have not targeted the race, preferring to protect incumbents and trying to hold onto seats where GOP incumbents are retiring.
The Schwartz campaign remains angry at Bhakta for comments he allegedly made at a bar in Washington, D.C. The Hill newspaper, quoting an anonymous House Democratic aide, said the challenger referred to his opponent as "that liberal b——" and said he doesn’t "give a s—- about the campaign."
Bhakta, who was at the bar celebrating the wedding of a high school friend, said he never made the remarks. He denies ever calling Schwartz a name, though he has a new moniker for her now that she will not debate: "Enemy of Northeast Philadelphia."
The candidate said voters at a debate would see that Schwartz, who served 14 years in the Pennsylvania Senate, is a "hack career politician." He called Schwartz "cowardly" for not debating, adding that it’s a "slap in the face" to voters.
"The sad truth of the matter is Schwartz is afraid to face the people of Northeast Philadelphia," he said.
At the debate, Bhakta said he was looking forward to linking Schwartz to Mayor John Street, a fellow Democrat. He faults the mayor for corruption in city government, not hiring more police officers, neighborhood decline and underfunding the fire department.
"It’s either the good people of Northeast Philadelphia or Mayor Street," Bhakta said. "Allyson Schwartz has made her choice. She’s with John Street."
Early in the campaign, Bhakta agreed to a debate that would have taken place on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Schwartz, who turned 58 on Tuesday, declined an invitation for a joint appearance.
The Republican said he has engaged in retail politics, meeting with citizens in communities. He tells voters he is the candidate for reform and change.
His opponent, he said, has been on the sidelines during the campaign. He said she’s standing behind her substantial war chest and spokespersons. He’s bracing for an onslaught of campaign mailings and television commercials.