State House District 49 candidate Rogers wants to know why King won't debate him

Marvin Rogers wants to know where John King has been.

Three times, Rogers has accepted offers to publicly debate King as they battle for the state House seat being vacated by Democrat Bessie Moody-Lawrence.

Three times, King has declined.

"When it's just John King and I, as they used to say in boxing, mano y mano, he's MIA," Rogers said. "It's almost like two students who are in a class and one is studying to no end and the other is just out partying and they go in expecting the same grade. ... He's still expecting to win."

Rogers is particularly upset that King found the time to mail out strongly-worded campaign fliers.

"Just like they did against Barack Obama in 2004," the flier states, "the right-wing Republicans have recruited a black candidate from elsewhere to move into the district ... all in an attempt to confuse Democratic voters. How gullible do they think we are?"

Rogers denounced the fliers as an example of negative campaigning and says they violate a pledge the candidates made earlier this year to keep the contest positive.

Asked to explain the flier, King told The Herald he didn't know about it.

"I will give Mr. Rogers a call," King said. "If he has an issue with me, he should have called me."

King, director of King Funeral Home, then said he was helping a family make funeral arrangements and would call back.

He didn't return the call. However, his political consultant, Rod Shealy Jr., did.

Shealy said he developed the flier. When asked if King approved it, he said King doesn't read the fliers word for word.

Shealy also said he doesn't consider the flier to be a negative ad and accused Rogers of negative campaigning, though he didn't say how.

As for why King hasn't agreed to debate Rogers, Shealy said he doesn't consider the Republican to be a serious candidate and didn't make time in King's schedule to include debates.

"He does think it's important, but he also believes it's important to keep his commitments," Shealy said.

Shealey later sent an e-mail to The Herald saying King told him he couldn't make two debates because his sister was having surgery during one event and a death in the family prevented him from attending another.

Rogers sees King's absences as a tactic to avoid dealing with issues. He said King is banking on vast numbers of straight-ticket voters who will be coming out on election day to support Obama for president.

District 49 has been a Democratic stronghold for years.

"It has made him lazy and it has given him this false sense that he doesn't have to work for the vote," Rogers said.

Rick Whisonant, a political scientist at York Technical College, also says King is avoiding debates as a defensive strategy.

"He's definitely riding the coattails of Obama," he said.

A former Chester County councilman, King is well-known in the community and has the name recognition of an incumbent, Whisonant said. That's why King may feel he has nothing to gain by taking part in debates.

"A lot of pressure has to be put -- through the media, through the other candidates that are running against that individual -- to further explain, 'Why are you not coming to these debates?'" Whisonant said.

The tactic wouldn't work on a national level, Whisonant said, because the public pressure would be too great.

"This is a dangerous trend," he said. "That's an affront of the democratic process when you refuse to participate in debates -- end of story."