HARRISBURG – A Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry dinner in Hershey next month is shaping up as the likely venue for the first debate between Gov. Tom Corbett and challenger Tom Wolf.
On its website, the chamber is touting its Sept. 22 annual dinner and debate, as well as a keynote speech by retired NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, even though the campaigns of Republican Corbett and Democrat Wolf have not formally accepted the invitations.
“We’re pretty confident that they’re going to be there,” the group’s president and CEO, Gene Barr, said Friday.
Leaders of the two campaigns are negotiating over the general-election debate schedule and declined to confirm any details. But neither side suggested its candidate would not attend.
In at least the last three campaigns for governor, debates or forums sponsored by the state or local chambers have served as the opening bell for Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial debates.
It’s “pretty much a tradition,” said Barr. “It’s televised. People have come to expect it.”
About 1,600 business leaders and lawmakers are expected to join in the dinner program at the Hershey Lodge, where a seat will cost members $250 and nonmembers $275.
“Some will come for the debate. Some will come for Brokaw. Some will come for both,” Barr said.
Corbett, the former two-term state attorney general, has made public-pension reform the centerpiece of his uphill campaign for a second four-year term. He was unopposed in the May 20 GOP primary.
Wolf, a wealthy York businessman, fronted his campaign $10 million to finance a vigorous TV campaign that elevated his name recognition and gave him an early lead that has carried over into the general election campaign. More than a dozen debates were held in the Democratic primary among Wolf and his four opponents.