HERSHEY — With just one gubernatorial debate scheduled before the Nov. 6 election, Pennsylvania voters needed a moderator who would ask substantive questions, control the candidates, and move the conversation forward in what’s been a sleepy race thus far.
But that’s not what they got Monday night at a disjointed thought at-times entertaining debate between Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican former state Sen. Scott Wagner in Hershey at the Pennsylvania Chamber’s annual dinner.
Below are four takeaways from the one and only gubernatorial debate.
No. 1: Alex Trebek probably wasn’t the best choice of moderator.
The “Jeopardy!” host sure was charming as the special guest at the Pennsylvania Chamber dinner. And he definitely prepared. “This is not a game show tonight. This is serious stuff,” Trebek correctly said, adding that he’d experienced “agony” and “stress” getting ready.
But as a moderator, Trebek tended toward telling stories about himself rather than asking the candidates actual questions.
He was even booed toward the end of the debate after asking a question about a proposed severance tax.
No. 2: Scott Wagner continues to have thoughts on public sector unions.
When the candidates were asked questions, Wagner responded several times with criticisms of public sector unions. Trebek asked the Republican if the state GOP essentially dropped the ball by allowing so many Democrats to get elected to the state Supreme Court. Wagner responded that the Democrats had public sector union money. He also claimed that Wolf vetoed a pension reform bill because of unions. (Wolf provided other reasons.)
Wagner once infamously compared unions to Hitler.
No. 3: Tom Wolf and Wagner can agree.
The candidates found plenty of things to disagree about, like the death penalty (Wolf, citing a bipartisan commission is opposed; Wagner wants it to be mandatory for certain heinous crimes).
But the two men agreed about money in politics (it’s bad) and said open primaries would be good for Pennsylvania.
Still, Trebek couldn’t help but add his opinion, warning Wagner that an open primary system may have favored a more moderate candidate.
No. 4: Trebek can bring people together.
The host did do one thing. He got Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans to agree that he didn’t do a great job.