GOP hopefuls to debate -- or will they?

05/13/2008 11:54 PM

05/13/2008 11:59 PM

Words are flying in a debate between local Republican hopefuls -- and the debate hasn't started yet.

The York County Young Republicans are hosting what they call a town hall debate on Thursday night at Beef O' Brady's restaurant in Fort Mill. But two of the four candidates listed on the invitation say they haven't been told about what exactly is planned.

One says he didn't know of the 7 p.m. event until reading it in the newspaper three days ago. The problem, says York County Council candidate Jeff Updike, is that the debate was organized by his opponent's ally and business partner.

Greg Rogers is chairman of the Young Republicans, a club formed earlier this year. Rogers also is a campaign volunteer for Paul Lindemann, the York County Council incumbent in District 1 who faces Updike in the June 10 GOP primary. Rogers works for Lindemann's real estate investment firm, Ocean Blue Properties.

"It reflects poorly on the party, and especially the Young Republicans, that they can't be a little more professional in orchestrating this," Updike said. "Folks, you've got to do things right. If you want people to participate, you can't just expect things to fall in place."

Another candidate, state House incumbent Carl Gullick, says he was told the event was a meet-and-greet, not a debate. Now, Gullick no longer plans to attend.

"This is the craziest thing I've ever heard of," said Gullick, who represents District 48 northern York County. "I e-mailed him today and said, 'I thought you said it wasn't going to be a debate. He e-mails back and says, 'It isn't.' I mean, what the heck?"

The top of the invitation, sent in a mass e-mail last Thursday, says "Town Hall Debate!!!" A second announcement sent Tuesday repeats the title.

Organizer: No set-up

Rogers says that he and Gullick apparently differ on the definition of the word "debate." In this case, Rogers said, there won't be back-and-forth exchanges, but rather questions from the audience. The moderator is former WRHI radio personality Lee Stuart.

Rogers said he could have done a better job explaining the rules, but added: "Nobody's setting anybody up. It's just a public town hall debate at Beef O' Brady's. I don't see much Watergate in that."

Lindemann confirmed that he will attend. So did Gullick's opponent, Kyle Boyd, a resident of Regent Park in Fort Mill Township and founder of Walnut Grove Christian School in North Carolina. The event is for these two northern York County races only.

Gullick said he's not opposed to debating Boyd -- the two will meet May 23 in River Hills -- but he doesn't want to commit to anything unless the format is specified.

On Tuesday, Gullick said he'll just sit this one out.

"It'd be better not to go than walk into something and you're not sure what it is," Gullick said. "It was one thing, then it was another thing. I ain't doing it."

Glenn McCall, York County GOP chairman, said he understands the basis for the uncertainty.

"We're still learning and working out the kinks with the Young Republicans," he said. "When you do something like this, you want all the candidates to feel comfortable that everyone will be given a fair shake. I have no doubt they would be, but you just go out of your way to make sure."

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