Panelists, students gather at election roundtable

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor | Panelists speak at Wednesday's event.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

Sept. 8, 2022

Two months until a midterm election cycle usually seems like an eternity, but if there was one thing that Duquesne’s Pre-Election Roundtable could agree upon, it’s that this is not a normal election cycle.

On Wednesday, the university hosted the Pre-Election Roundtable, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) in Fisher Hall. Duquesne was one of five schools selected throughout the state of Pennsylvania to take part in the public affairs initiative that aims to give an informative conversation about the upcoming midterm election through a diverse and balanced discussion.

The discussion panel, moderated by PCN’s Phil Beckman, consisted of the following: Lewis Irwin (a political scientist and professor at Duquesne), Robert Gleason (former chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party from 2006 to 2017), Nancy Patton Mills (former chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party from 2018 to 2022) and journalist Ryan Deto of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

In front of an audience consisting mainly of undergraduate students, the panel discussed the upcoming election, mainly focusing on the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate race. The panel discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from the fall-out of the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision, the strategy of the various campaigns, the impact of Donald Trump and the extent of which social media could impact this campaign.

Panel members gave their insight, along with their analysis, of the major candidates’ strategies and how they compared to past years, again focusing on the unusual circumstances of each candidate and their party.

Irwin gave empirical information that guided the discussion, as well as into how unprecedented this election is for the state of Pennsylvania. He also speculated to what may play out in November.

“There were nine special elections for the U.S. House of Representatives before the whole Dobbs issue came out,” Irwin said. “If you average all the results of those elections compared against the partisan link, so where it would have normally gone if it was a neutral election, the Republicans outperformed the Democrats in those nine elections by an average of two points.

“Since Dobbs, there have been four elections … Democrats have outperformed their partisan line by nine points in those four special elections that have occurred since then.”

As former chairs of their respective parties, Gleason and Mills had a few lukewarm exchanges, where the crux of their disagreement was of voter motivation.

Gleason suggested that voters are more concerned about the economy, saying that “at the end of the day, pocketbook issues will trump everything else.”

Mills retorted, saying, “You mentioned that the economy hits everyone, but so do women’s rights because every household has a woman in the house.”

The hour-long discussion gave students a chance to see well-informed opinions spoken in a civil manner. While the panel’s political leanings were apparent, the discussions were formal and polite. Each member was given ample opportunity to speak and voice their range of political leanings and background.

“I definitely did see a little bit of back and forth there, and I feel like they did a good job,” said undergraduate student Michael Konopski. “So to speak in the middle, and coming in with a little bit of empirical data and getting journalists from the outside to just explain what they’re seeing from the news angle, I thought it was interesting.”

The discussion found itself coming back to the two most-polarizing figures in the upcoming Pennsylvania elections: John Fetterman and Doug Mastriano. It focused on their unusual campaigns and relationships with the media.

“I did a little research before coming,” said junior Danny Radigan. “Like Fetterman, he’s a very intriguing candidate. He does appeal to the working class, and usually the roles are flipped. Usually it’s the opposite way, but you see Oz now as the elite and Fetterman as that working class man. It’s really interesting because Fetterman is really pounding down the fact that [Oz] is everywhere but here.”

While the panelists showed off their variety of opinions stemming from their diverse occupations and background, they could agree on one thing.

“Nine weeks in politics is a lifetime,” Irwin said.

The panel will air on PCN this coming Wednesday at 7 p.m.