Senate candidates debate — by text message

Tony DeLoreto, Democratic candidate for the 41st District state Senate seat, Philadelphia Street, Indiana, Pa., Oct. 11, 2016. Photo by David Loomis.

Tony DeLoreto, Democratic candidate for the 41st District state Senate seat, Philadelphia Street, Indiana, Pa., Oct. 11, 2016. Photo by David Loomis.

By The HawkEye staff

Since January, state Sen. Donald C. “Don” White, R-41st, and Democratic challenger Tony DeLoreto, an Indiana restaurateur, exchanged scores of private cell-phone text messages that reveal unedited banter ranging from political issues to personal insults.

During the eight-month period, the candidates largely avoided each other in public, although they spoke separately at an annual meeting of the Indiana County Farm Bureau on Sept. 22. Recently they agreed to three debates, beginning later this month. The election is Nov. 8.

DeLoreto released the text messages in the form of screen shots in early October. He and his campaign staff also produced a transcript.

DeLoreto said a “slur” prompted him to release the exchange.

In several messages White refers to DeLoreto as “Pancho.” On Sept. 18 and 19, DeLoreto questions White’s use of the term.

“You figure it out,” White responds.

DeLoreto said voters should know.

“It’s immature,” DeLoreto said in an Oct. 10 interview at his restaurant. “It’s surprising for a state senator. It’s unprofessional not to use my name.”

White issued an email response through a spokeswoman on Oct. 12.

State Sen. Donald C. "Don" White, R-41st, incumbent seeking re-election in the Nov. 8 election. Photo from the senator's Facebook page.

State Sen. Donald C. “Don” White, R-41st, incumbent seeking re-election in the Nov. 8 election. Photo from the senator’s Facebook page.

“As with my opponent’s references to me being ‘chicken’ and ‘Don Juan,’ I view these private messages on my personal cell phone as nothing more than gamesmanship between political opponents,” the statement read. “I look forward to discussing the issues of greatest concern to the residents of the 41st District … creating family-sustaining jobs and reducing the tax burden on working families as this campaign moves forward.”

The candidates’ text messages include personal gibes with references to farm animals, including goat, chicken and “horses’ ass.” They banter about personal appearance and spell check.

Issues raised in the texts include farm policy, unions and energy-sector workers. The candidates also spar over debates.

The scheduled debates begin Oct. 27, 7-8:30 p.m., with a candidates night sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Indiana County. Two additional debates are scheduled for Nov. 1, at Renda Broadcasting, 840 Philadelphia St., Indiana, and at West Shamokin High School.


FOLLOWING is an annotated transcript of the text messages exchanged by White and DeLoreto from Jan. 28 through Oct. 5.

The thread begins with DeLoreto responding to a phone invitation from White to meet and discuss the election campaign for which DeLoreto has just announced as a candidate.


Thu, Jan. 28, 9:20 a.m.

DeLoreto: Sorry, don. Can’t make it today. Maybe some time next week. Thanks.

White: Would appreciate. Thanks


Sun, Feb 14, 6:37 p.m.

White: Why are you opposed to talking with me? I have no intention of talking you out of running. I welcome the challenge.

DeLoreto: I’ll meet with you some time soon. Busy with petitions right now. Spending the first valentines with my wife away from the restaurant. 20 years we always worked. Happy Valentines to you and your wife.

White: Thanks! Anne and I have 42 years as a loving couple. Glad you have a strong and loyal partner because you’ll need that going forward.


Feb 19, 5:13 p.m.

White: Still waiting. What’s ur problem?


Feb 20, 9:04 a.m.

DeLoreto: My problem is that I’ve been busy. Busy week at the restaurant and busy absorbing this campaign information. Give me a day and a time you want to stop by benders. And we can sit down over a cup of coffee and have a discussion.


Feb 20, 4:01 p.m.

White: Really time has passed for what I had hoped to give you a heads up on in regards to the petition process and the need for clarity. That conversation would of taken less than one half hour.

Instead, you chose to ignore my request for the last 2 and one half weeks. Democrats that have tried to run against me take the petition process lightly. I ended up with 1,300 signatures, of which I personally witnessed over 750 at petition parties throughout the 41st District. Been through this process FIVE times!

Could have saved you a lot of time and energy.

We shall see what happens now.

[Editor’s note: In March, nominating petitions to put DeLoreto’s name on the spring primary-election ballot were challenged in court. The court ruled against the challenge and allowed DeLoreto’s name to appear on the ballot. The Indiana Gazette story about the court ruling included a photo of DeLoreto wearing a necktie.]


April 1, 4:48 p.m.

White: Congratulations! Now we can move on.
You look a lot better in a tie.

DeLoreto: Thanks! Apology accepted!

[Editor’s note: According to DeLoreto, in a personal conversation at his restaurant, White had pledged to apologize if the petition challenge failed in court.]

White: Assuming that you accepted this as an “apology”, hope that it means that you will keep this campaign “clean”. We all have our skeletons. Correct?


Fri, July 8, 3:05 p.m.

White: Haven’t seen the letter to the editor you wrote, but have heard from many.

You are confused. I have had a great relationship with my trade unions for 16 years. You want to stick up for public unions, that’s ur problem. (I.e. PSEA)

The PSEA has never supported me, or me, them. I like it that way.


Mon, July 11, 11:20 a.m.

DeLoreto: Did you here about Stan Buggey?

White: Is he running as an independent?

DeLoreto: Not sure.
Don’t think I ever mentioned PSEA.

White: So what IS the news on Stan Buggey? You sent me a text if I heard about Stan Buggey. What’s that have to do with PSEA?

DeLoreto: How does your “right to work” bill not effect trade unions also?
You mentioned in your text that I was only concerned about PSEA.

White: That was a message I sent my trade unions when they took the side of the public unions on paycheck protection, which, I’m my opinion, was a fight the Trades should have stayed out of for their own good. Paycheck was only directed to public unions!
Besides, I knew Right to Work would never pass.
It’s called politics.


Mon, July 11, 6:58 p.m.

DeLoreto: why should have the trade unions stayed out for their own good?

White: You sending these texts or do you have a “ghost writer”?
I’ve been very transparent since day one.
If you don’t understand the difference between trade unions and public unions, I feel sorry for you When our trade unions go on strike, they lose a day’s pay. Not the public unions. They get retroactive pay.
Listen, Pancho, you can attack all you want, but don’t forget this race is over all or parts of 4 Counties and I will outwork you because I wouldn’t want to be a Democrat in this 41st District trying to defend this Govenor!
Attack where you want. I will defend my voting record and my service to the 41st District. Keep up the plants writing letters.

DeLoreto: I do have a journalism degree, but I also have editors.
Cause I can’t spell


Mon, Jul 11, 8:52 p.m.

White: Fine. I have my problems in that area,too. Thank goodness for “spellcheck”.


Wed, July 20, 6:29 p.m.

White: Nice renovation going on.

[Editor’s note: DeLoreto’s Philadelphia Street restaurant underwent a facelift during the summer.]


Mon, Jul 25, 7:52 p.m.

White: Nice


Fri, Sep 2, 7:49 p.m.

White: Did you buy a goat?

[Editor’s note: According to DeLoreto, the candidates appeared at a local fair where prize pigs were auctioned. White purchased several and invited DeLoreto to do the same. DeLoreto says he responded that he could not afford to pay $600 per pig.]

DeLoreto: Let me know when there’s a horses’ ass, and I’ll buy it for you.

White: Witty! I heard they’re auctioning off the chickens soon. Stick around.

By the way, love your renovation.


Sat, Sep 3, 3:36 p.m.

White: Like all D’s, you pay lip service to the Agriculture industry, but never support programs that help support 4-H. Those kids are the future. Your statement at the County Farm Bureau meeting shows what a hypocrite u r.


Tue, Sep 6, 7:48 p.m.

White: Really, why r u running?


Sun, Sep 18, 5:50 p.m.

DeLoreto: You running from debates?

White: Why would I?
So far, every time you open your mouth, I get votes.

DeLoreto: Let’s get debates going! I hear your a gifted speaker. Maybe I can get you more votes when I start moving my lips!

White: You need them, I don’t.
You’ve seen the polls.

DeLoreto: You chicken?

White: The League of Women voters, a Democrat organization, will make sure you have your moment in the sun. Looking forward to you defending Hillary and Gov Wolf in this region.
Do u realize this race is more than IUP and Indiana county?

Well, Pancho?

DeLoreto: Pancho?

Screen shot of a Sept. 18 text message exchange between state Sen. Don White, R-41st, and Democratic challenger Tony DeLoreto in which White refers to DeLoreto as "Pancho." DeLoreto described the term as a "slur."

Screen shot of a Sept. 18 text message exchange between state Sen. Don White, R-41st, and Democratic challenger Tony DeLoreto in which White refers to DeLoreto as “Pancho.” DeLoreto described the term as a “slur.”


Mon, Sep 19, 1:48 p.m.

White: Asked my staff today about you crazy accusation that I’m dodging a debate.
Not true. League of Women voters gave me two dates. Both days I’m in session. Supposedly settled on Nov 1st.


Sep 19, 4:09 p.m.

White: Bring it on, Pancho

DeLoreto: Pancho?

White: You figure it out.


Sat, Sep 24, 4:26 p.m.

White: Looked good walking around with your name on your shirt.

[Editor’s note: According to DeLoreto, the candidates attended a fair in Clymer.]

Beats the heck out of that green or orange t-shirt. When I first ran in 2000, I didn’t need my name on my shirts, because I was actively involved in my community, County and Region. What have you done besides judging the best Leprechaun in the St Patrick’s Day parade?

I’m only saying these things because you early on decided to spread false rumors about my character. That was unacceptable.

I’ve done my research, too. You have issues that I won’t bring up, but will, publicly, if you don’t stop.

DeLoreto: Your paranoid Don Juan!


Sep 24, 5:58 p.m.

White: Hey, Poncho, enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.


Mon, Oct 3, 2:47 p.m.

White: Heard from friends about ur Facebook rant. Are u serious?

DeLoreto: What do you mean by rant?

White: You stated that I am not for the working man now and never have been.
I think coal miners, power plant workers(IBEW)and Shale workers might beg to differ.
Your good at denigrating people and trying to make up your own version of history.
My record speaks for itself.
You’ll see come Election Day.

DeLoreto: What is my version


Wed, Oct 5, 7:08 p.m.

White: Look at your own Facebook post, Pancho.


Wed, Oct 5, 7:08 p.m.

DeLoreto: Dave Croyle says hello.
Who’s your campaign manager?

White: Dave has come around since he fought me on the school consolidation. We won big.
Don’t need a campaign mgr, although Sandi Gillette is handling my correspondence, Pancho

DeLoreto: Let’s do an on-air debate on dave croyle’s show. My campaign will pay your share of the costs. It should get you votes considering you said everytime I open my mouth you get more votes.

White: Pancho, you’re getting 3 debates. You have zero help in Armstrong County. The D Commissioners, the DA have all pledged their support to me. They KNOW what I’ve done in Armstrong.

You? What have you ever done for our town or County here in Indiana, let alone Armstrong County?

Be happy that I even agreed to 3 debates

Logan Hullinger, a junior journalism major at IUP from Clarion, contributed reporting. David Loomis edited. His family has contributed to DeLoreto’s campaign.

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One Response to Senate candidates debate — by text message

  1. Vicki Stelma says:

    The League of Women Voters of Indiana County would like to correct a misrepresentation of our organization as stated by Senator Don White in the text messages referenced in the article “Senate candidates debate – by text message.” Although Senator White characterized the League as, “a Democrat organization,” we are and have been, in fact, a nonpartisan organization since our founding in 1920. The League as a national, state, and local organization does not endorse candidates or parties. Rather, we research issues, develop positions, and take action based on our thorough examination of such topics as voters’ rights, education, the environment, and various aspects of social policy and governance. To learn more about the League of Women Voters, please visit us at

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