Former Pa. governors to debate in 'Democracy Challenge' at York College next month

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell speaks at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia on Monday, June 18, 2018. Rendell said he was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago with Parkinson's disease. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Two former Pennsylvania governors will debate on immigration next month in an effort to show that bipartisan progress can be made in an age of rancorous politics and legislative stalemates.

The York County Economic Alliance, along with York College and Comcast, will host former Govs. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, and Mark Schweiker, a Republican, in an hour-long debate Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the college's Waldner Performing Arts Center.

"It is clear that our democratic process is challenged," said Kevin Schreiber, president of the YCEA. "And born from that is the Democracy Challenge, created to demonstrate how a shift in discourse is needed to advance our democracy in the face of ever-changing trials and priorities."

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The two governors will be tasked with debating immigration-related viewpoints, discussing policy solutions and eventually coming to a compromise by the end of the debate.

Mark Schweiker, former Governor of Pennsylvania

"Immigration reform isn't an issue that breaks Republican or Democrat," wrote Rendell in a statement. "From a practical standpoint, we're not going to deport 11 million people, particularly because they are a key portion of the workforce doing jobs that most Americans won't."

Such an event at a college is especially important, Schreiber said, as the youth have shown to be more open to civic engagement and are expected to compose the largest voting bloc in next year's presidential election.

And while the state Legislature can't create a pathway to citizenship or implement broader reform measures left to the federal government, it can work on issues that affect immigrants such as healthcare, government-issued ID and employment, Schreiber added.

"No one leader has the only approach that works in a democracy, and this debate might just inspire leaders in Harrisburg to consider that even with competing points of view, we can come together to create a solution that generates accountability and supports the economic vitality of the state," wrote Schweiker in a statement.

Tickets and additional information for the event can be found here.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.