Fitzgerald, Raja trade criticisms once again at forum
Sparks fly between Allegheny County executive candidates Rich Fitzgerald, left, and D. Raja as they disagree on issues Thursday at Robert Morris University.
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Before a small gathering of college students Thursday night in a studio on the Robert Morris University campus, county executive candidates Rich Fitzgerald and D. Raja continued their recent pattern of lobbing insults at one another while discussing Port Authority funding, the drink tax and one another's resumes.
The event began at 8 p.m. in the Patrick Henry Center with Republican candidate Mr. Raja, student moderator Justin Downs and a crew of students producing the 70-minute show for their Media Management course.
Mr. Raja, who runs the Scott software company called CEI, touted his experience as chief executive officer of his company while accusing his Democratic opponent of lying and "not understanding budgets."
For 40 minutes, Mr. Raja answered questions about how he would improve the unemployment rate -- by talking to CEOs about the benefits of moving to Western Pennsylvania and by looking to the Marcellus Shale industry -- and what role college students can play in the county. "They are going to be the future of Allegheny County," he said.
Often, he began his responses by saying, "I'm going to answer that philosophically" and followed by making critical references to his opponent's 12-year track record on Allegheny County Council.
Mr. Fitzgerald, who previously announced he would be late because he had to attend another event, arrived 40 minutes into the program. Then the two candidates began trading barbs about issues they have already discussed in the campaign
The two disagreed over the county's tax on poured alcoholic drinks, which Mr. Raja promised to eliminate and Mr. Fitzgerald promised to keep. They argued over whether Mr. Fitzgerald could be considered a career politician having worked part time on county council and also owning a water treatment consulting business. They argued over whether Mr. Raja had sued an employee whose mother had cancer.
The sole issue they agreed upon was that they don't want to see people leave the area.
The students laughed as the candidates went back and forth, and after the debate had ended and the candidates had left, one man joked of the candidates' responses, "I don't have anything new to say, but my opponent said ..."
The candidates plan to tape another forum at 2 p.m. today at WQED.
First Published October 28, 2011 12:00 am