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Monessen debate unlikely

| Tuesday, May 3, 2005

MONESSEN -- It's not likely a debate is going to happen between the two city mayoral candidates.

Mayor John T. DeLuca challenged his opponent in the May 17 primary election, Councilman Anthony Petaccia, to a debate to discuss their records last month, but to date nothing has been set.

DeLuca is seeking his second four-year term.

The candidates were recently offered the use of the Douglas Education Center Van Keulen Complex on Schoonmaker Avenue, Monessen, by President Jeffrey D. Imbrescia.

In a letter sent to the candidates, Imbrescia stated, "I believe and I am sure you will agree that it is vital to provide the electorate with information such as a candidate's platform or the position a candidate may hold on various issues."

Imbrescia blocked off May 9 for the debate, but neither Petaccia nor DeLuca can attend that night because the Monessen High School governments' classes are hosting a "meet the candidates' night" the same evening. Both will also attend a candidates' night at the Mon Valley Community Health Center Thursday sponsored by the Mon Valley NAACP.

Petaccia said he hasn't committed to a debate at the Douglas facility because he has yet to receive a return telephone call explaining the format.

"Right now it doesn't seem feasible because we are running out of time and there are many other events, " Petaccia said.

Petaccia also said he wouldn't agree to a debate if his stipulations weren't met, including having the event sponsored by a non-partisan group.

"Jeff and Kevin Imbrescia are supporters of DeLuca, so to me that doesn't make much sense," he said.

Kevin Imbrescia, director of public relations at Douglas, said the school would be willing to offer its building for a debate at a time that would fit both of their schedules.

"We just wanted to present an opportunity to sit and hear the major issues and we have a nice facility to offer," Imbrescia said. "We did not say we were supporting John DeLuca -- that's an assumption on his part.

"We want to hear, just like the public does, what both of their plans are for economic revitalization."

DeLuca is still eager to debate his opponent, however.

"If he doesn't want to debate me at the DEC, I'll debate him at his house," DeLuca said.

Petaccia said it didn't seem to make a lot of sense to have the debate, as there won't likely be any television or radio news stations present to cover the event.

"The newspaper is already working on a profile, which will describe our issues," Petaccia said. "I have said that I don't want this to turn into a mud-slinging event. I'm sticking to my guns and I want my stipulations met."

Imbrescia said it seemed to him that Petaccia was more eager to answer "essay questions" rather than a verbal debate.

Petaccia said the "Monessen voters are intelligent and they already know who they are voting for."

DeLuca said he didn't have a problem with Petaccia choosing a moderator and each would supply three questions to each other.

"I appreciate the opportunity to go the candidates' nights, but a debate would allow us an opportunity to talk about the issues and what we're going to do for the future of the city," DeLuca said. "The bottom line is I'll debate him anywhere, anytime."

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