NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) – Organizers are hoping for a sell-out crowd next week when a debate among Republicans running for Pennsylvania Governor and U-S Senator is held in New Castle.

With a week to go before the event, workers and volunteers were busy Thursday setting up the stage and hanging decorations inside New Castle’s Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Lynne Ryan said this is something she’s been working on since she became chair of the local party. She says Lawrence County recently became part of what she calls the “Rural T” of largely Republican counties located outside Pennsylvania’s major cities.

“We just want the candidates to come and recognize this part of the state,” she said. “The “Rural T” is where the candidates win the statewide elections. You can lose elections in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but you win them in the “Rural T.”

Aside from bringing the candidates for Senate and governor to the area so they can talk directly to the people in Western Pennsylvania, the event will not only shine a bright spotlight on the venue but also on the local community.

“I think this building is one of Pennsylvania’s best-kept secrets in its size and what we have to offer, both state and the city,” said Jim McKim, president of the Cathedral Foundation.

The big issue still hanging over the debate is the ongoing pandemic and its effect on attendance. Ryan says the 2,800-seat capacity will allow for social distancing.

“Anyone who wants to be put in a place that’s blocked off, we are more than happy to accommodate,” she said.

For now, organizers say they’ve sold enough tickets in advance to cover their costs but hope to fill the cathedral.

The debate is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, 110 East Lincoln Ave., New Castle. General admission tickets are $25. Tickets for a V.I.P. reception and seating are $150. Tickets can be purchased online.