Skipping a debate held by the League of Voters is bad enough. Sending your Legislative Communications Director in your proxy is, well... a grey area at best. Let me explain:
In a debate forum held in Danville, PA - the heart of the newly drawn 11th Congressional district in Pennsylvania, the League of Voters anxiously awaited to hear from the two candidates. This is a new district for them, and they were eager to hear from both sides.
Gene Stilp (D) showed up ready to debate. Lou Barletta (R) - The incumbent, did not.
Instead he sent a surrogate. It might be tacky and offensive to the people who showed up, but it's not completely unheard of to have a campaign staffer fill in when you can't be somewhere.
The red flags went up, however, when the person sent to debate Gene introduced himself as Shawn Kelly, Legislative Communications Director for Congressman Barletta.
He stated he is not part of the campaign staff and that he is a member of Barletta's Legislative Staff.
So what does that matter? Well, he is paid by the US Congress to do his job. Paid by taxpayer money. Paid quite well, I might add.
So why was he there? Isn't his job to serve the people of the district and not out campaigning? That's generally how it works. They are separate entities for a reason.
Now, maybe he was doing this on his own free time and not on the public clock. Fine.
But did he drive his own personal car there? Did he take mileage for his drive? Did he eat, use his taxpayer funded phone, e-mail, copy machine, etc. to prepare for the debate?
It might sound trivial to some, but the if incumbents are permitted to use the vast resource of staff they have at their disposal to help get them re-elected, it's an unfair advantage. Obviously no challenger has that option, and therefore is at an immediate disadvantage right from the start.
Furthermore, not everyone in the district agrees with Lou Barletta's positions and many of them don't support his election effort at all. Why should they have to pay for it? Even if it only came down to a meal, mileage reimbursement or something as simple as using his taxpayer funded phone or e-mail system to prepare, it shouldn't be acceptable.