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PA Governor’s Race: Wolf Ducks Equal Time on Hometown Radio Show

With the 2014 election now less than one week away, Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf has been curiously ducking repeated invitations, both on air and off, to join NewsRadio 910 local talk show host Gary Sutton for an interview. The station, WSBA, is based in candidate Wolf’s hometown, York, PA, and airs Sutton’s show Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

According to Sutton, he invited Tom Wolf to appear on his show even before Wolf won the Democratic primary nomination. Invitations were also extended to Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign, causing frustration for Sutton, as neither campaign was very responsive to his invitations. Finally the Corbett campaign responded with a request for time on air and the governor was interviewed Thursday, Oct. 23 on the Gary Sutton Show. Sutton duly noted his station’s obligation to provide equal time to candidate Wolf, in accordance with FCC regulation.

It was during that Oct. 23 show when he finally heard back from Jeff Sheridan with the Wolf campaign, according to Sutton. Sutton said Sheridan told him, “it was my fault for not getting back to you”, but that they would still confirm nothing as far as an interview. On his show the next day, Sutton again extended the invitation, even telling the Wolf campaign they could name their time and he would shuffle his schedule to accommodate them. As of midday Wednesday, Oct. 29, less than one week before the election, Sutton had not received a response.

While it’s understandable the business of any campaign is to win elections, and media appearances should be in those markets most likely to have a positive effect, it’s also curious why any candidate would not make exception for a prominent media outlet in his hometown, especially with the common history of Mr. Wolf and Mr. Sutton, even if simply for courtesy.

While born in York, PA, Wolf grew up in Mt. Wolf, a small community also in York County. Sutton is native to Manchester, PA, a small community adjacent to Mt. Wolf, separated only by the names and a railroad track. To anyone not knowing better, the two small towns appear as one. With only a few years difference in age, Wolf and Sutton would have attended the same school district and were acquainted in their youth.

Both went on to distinguish themselves. Wolf eventually became owner and head of his family’s building supply business, and acquired political aspirations, serving in Democratic Gov. Bob Casey’s administration and then as Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell’s Secretary of Revenue in 2007-2008, after selling the business in 2006. His 2010 reacquisition of the business precluded his desire to run for governor in that year.

Sutton, according to what he often references on his show, was a high school history teacher and coached basketball. At some point, he transitioned to talk radio, distinguishing himself as a local host with the ability to regularly attract big name figures for interviews on national topics, while maintaining a distinctively local flavor. While he personally leans conservative, Sutton strives to keep his show focused on ideas rather than ideology, welcoming all points of view in lively discussion and search for the truth.

It makes folks wonder if something more is afoot in Tom Wolf’s avoidance of Gary Sutton’s show. Sutton has made on-air suggestions that he would like to hear more specifics of Wolf’s positions on the issues. He has also, while emphatically denying endorsement, stated, for the first time ever in his radio career, that his personal vote will be for Gov. Tom Corbett, a decision contributed by candidate Wolf’s perceived lack of clarity as opposed to Corbett’s.

In the event Tom Wolf decides to emerge from the shadows to address his hometown community directly before the election, his time is quickly running out. WSBA has gotten a request from the Corbett campaign to be on Sutton’s show on Election Day. If an arrangement is concluded, this will require equal time for Tom Wolf, if requested, presumably in addition to that for Corbett’s appearance on Oct. 23.

Both campaigns were shown copy of this article and invited to add short comments in response prior to its publication. Republican candidate Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign responded:

It seems the last thing Tom Wolf wants to talk about and share details on is his 188% income tax hike on Pennsylvania’s middle class families and small businesses. We always appreciate Gary’s flexibility and hospitality in hosting Governor Corbett as time allows.

Democratic candidate Tom Wolf’s campaign provided no response. In the event they do prior to Friday, Oct. 31, it will be added to this space.

Photo by Shutterstock.com

Todd Keefer

Todd Keefer is a blogger, and activist, who blogs at FreeMktMonkey.com

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