Editor's Notes

Spotlight PA leads historic coalition to host debates for Pennsylvania U.S. Senate, gubernatorial primary races

by Christopher Baxter |

Spotlight PA — with an unprecedented coalition of major media companies and leading colleges in Pennsylvania — today announced dates for two “Pennsylvania in the Spotlight“ U.S. Senate debates leading up to the spring primary.
VICKI VELLIOS BRINER / For Spotlight PA

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Central to Spotlight PA’s mission is informing, equipping, and empowering voters in Pennsylvania to make educated decisions at the polls, and that includes subjecting any candidate for higher office to tough, nonpartisan questioning about their record and their vision.

That’s why we’re joining with an unprecedented coalition of major media companies and leading colleges in Pennsylvania today to announce dates for two “Pennsylvania in the Spotlight” U.S. Senate debates leading up to the spring primary, and an additional GOP gubernatorial debate.

A Democratic U.S. Senate debate will be held at 7 p.m. April 25 at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and will feature candidates John Fetterman, Malcolm Kenyatta, Alexandria Khalil, and Conor Lamb.

A Republican U.S. Senate debate will be held the following night, April 26, at the same time and location and will feature Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto, Sean Gale, and Carla Sands, and other candidates may be added.

Additionally, a GOP gubernatorial debate will be held at 7 p.m. April 19 at Gettysburg College featuring five candidates: Jake Corman, Joe Gale, Charlie Gerow, Melissa Hart, and Nche Zama. Four campaigns initially required a Republican moderator and other criteria rejected by the nonpartisan sponsors to preserve the credibility of the event. The Corman campaign later requested to join with no preconditions.

The debates are hosted by Spotlight PA and its founding members — The Philadelphia Inquirer, Trib Total Media, PennLive/The Patriot-News, and WITF — in conjunction with Dickinson College, the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, and PCN.

The events will be broadcast statewide by PCN and live-streamed online by the participating media companies. They will be held before a live audience, but due to COVID-19 precautions and security protocols, they will not be open to the general public.

The 90-minute format will feature a moderator and veteran journalists from the host news organizations. The campaigns had no role in determining the panelists or the topics, and I applaud their willingness to face questions and address voters without preconditions.

These three events are made possible in part by Spotlight PA’s more than 3,000 members all across Pennsylvania who are committed to upholding tough, nonpartisan journalism that goes beyond the political horse race and demands answers and accountability from our elected officials.

Our journalism operates on the honor system. If you value Spotlight PA’s public-service programming and are willing to do your part, please make a contribution today so this vital work can continue to be available at no cost to Pennsylvanians in all corners of the state. As a special bonus, all gifts made today will be DOUBLED as part of our March fundraising campaign.

In the coming months, Spotlight PA will continue to expand its public-service journalism with a focus on empowering voters. Recent efforts include a first-of-its-kind state constitutional amendment tracker, and a map comparison tool allowing residents to look up their old and new congressional and legislative districts and see how they will change under the new maps.

If you have ideas for how we can reorient political coverage to better serve voters, let us know using the form below:

Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

Help raise $125,000 in support of Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism for Pennsylvania as part of our end-of-year fundraising campaign.