The independent candidate for Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District seat says he’s willing to debate his two opponents publicly at any time — and has issued a public challenge for them to take part in multiple local debates.

Steven Porter said Democratic candidate Missa Eaton’s decision to drop out of a Meadville Tribune-sponsored forum shows “contempt for the voters of the Third Congressional District.”

The Third District includes all or parts of seven western Pennsylvania counties and almost all of Crawford County.

On Wednesday, Mike Yeatts, a spokesman for Eaton’s campaign, said Eaton wouldn’t appear at the planned debate set for Oct. 10 since incumbent Republican Mike Kelly of Butler County wasn’t going to participate. Kelly’s campaign previously declined the Tribune’s invitation to appear at the forum.

With two of the three candidates on the ballot declining to appear, the Meadville Tribune-sponsored event has been canceled. However, the Tribune still is willing to sponsor a forum if all three candidates wish to appear, according to Pat Bywater, the newspaper’s executive editor.

Porter called on both Kelly and Eaton to debate him.

“No matter whom one debates, if it is a legitimate public forum, as this was going to be, the primary goal of any candidate should be to inform the public,” Porter said in a statement. “It is not to cater to a petulant choice of opponents. Denying voters the opportunity of hearing answers to questions on the critical issues of the day is to show a real contempt for the very people one professes to wish to represent.

“I continue to stand ready to debate them in front of the public any time and place of mutual convenience,” Porter said.

The three candidates for the Third Congressional District have agreed to one debate.

It will be a televised debate that will be prerecorded in Erie on Oct. 24 and aired on Erie television stations Oct. 25 and 27.

The televised debate will be taped Oct. 24 in Erie and will air Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. on WQLN-TV of Erie (Channel 54) and be rebroadcast Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. on WJET-TV of Erie (Channel 24). WQLN is seen locally on Channel 13 on the Armstrong cable TV system, while WJET is seen locally on Channel 4 on Armstrong.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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