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Debate talks in Pa. governor, Senate races devolve into trash talk, predawn tweets

In a 4 a.m. tweet, Republican Doug Mastriano called Democrat Josh Shapiro “the little man” for not agreeing to a debate moderated by a former aide to Donald Trump. Shapiro called it a "stunt."

Democrat Josh Shapiro (left) and Republican Doug Mastriano (right). Will they meet for even one debate?
Democrat Josh Shapiro (left) and Republican Doug Mastriano (right). Will they meet for even one debate?Read moreTHOMAS HENGGE & STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographers

They can’t even agree on when, where, or how to disagree.

In two of the most important races in the country, Pennsylvania’s candidates for U.S. Senate and governor are hurling insults at each other over what was once a relatively routine process: negotiating a time and place for debates.

Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, and his allies are firing off multiple emails a day, attacking Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as a “coward” for dodging debate proposals.

» READ MORE: Sen. Toomey says Fetterman is ‘not up to the job’ of senator, pointing to lingering speech issues following his stroke

Fetterman says he is still recovering from the stroke he suffered in mid-May and will not debate until mid- to late October. Oz, who wants to hold debates sooner, with some counties starting to distribute mail ballots as early as next week, is accusing Fetterman of stalling.

In the governor’s race, Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano and Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro are talking past each other completely.

Last month, as debate negotiations were already underway with media outlets, Mastriano declared that he would not agree to a standard debate format with an independent moderator. He said it would be “unfair” and a “trap” for him.

Mastriano, who maintains a campaign policy of not interacting with most journalists, instead proposed debates that are run by the campaigns, with each having their own moderator. Shapiro rejected that, calling it a “stunt.”

The state senator has since resorted to schoolyard-style tactics, calling Shapiro “the little man” in a 4 a.m. tweet over the weekend. On Friday, he had sent Shapiro a letter, telling the Democrat to meet him at a hotel next month for a debate moderated by a former aide to Donald Trump. The former president has endorsed Mastriano.

“If you’re up for a fair debate, we have begun the planning process for you to meet me at Penn Harris on 22 October,” Mastriano wrote.

Shapiro’s campaign rejected the latest proposal.

“It’s sad but not surprising that the most extreme, out-of-touch candidate in Pennsylvania history would spend his time tweeting childish insults at four in the morning rather than answering real questions from local journalists,” said Shapiro spokesperson Will Simons. “But it’s yet another reminder that he’s completely unfit to be our Governor.”