The tickets are now official and the starting gate in the race to November is open.
Last week voters of both major parties nominated their candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, U.S. senate, congress and the state’s general assembly.
The Republican race for governor was a sometimes nasty affair. With charges and counter charges between the two leading candidates, Scott Wagner and Paul Mango. Wagner emerged with a seven-point victory and the GOP nomination.
Meanwhile, incumbent Tom Wolf had no opposition. But he had an unpleasant situation of his own.
His 2014 running mate, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, had never been his preferred sidekick. It was a shotgun marriage from the start and things went downhill from there.
With allegations of abuse of his staff and persistent rumors of other problems surrounding Stack, the governor clearly didn’t want to run with him again.
In a revealing insight into his leadership style, Wolf wasn’t willing to say so—at least not publicly. Instead he chose to say and do nothing and let the less than subtle message of his non-support for Stack carry the day.
The result was the defeat of Stack, the first time in the state’s history that a sitting lieutenant governor lost a primary. Not only did he lose, Stack managed to end up in fourth place, behind the party’s new nominee, John Fetterman.
Fetterman’s nomination promises to put the relatively obscure office onto center stage in the fall campaign.
Fetterman will give the Democrat ticket the charisma their standard bearer lacks. At 6’8” he’s an imposing figure. He’s got an interesting story and has done a remarkable job as mayor of Braddock, a small borough with a lot of challenges.
John Fetterman is not your typical candidate. In addition to his non-traditional look, he’s got a graduate degree from Harvard. He’s the quintessential nice guy. He’s also to the left of Wolf, the nation’s most liberal governor. There’s not much room to the left of Tom Wolf, but the man who was an early and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders might have found some.
By contrast the Wagner/Bartos team that emerged form the Republican Party features two guys who are not only very comparable, but truly want to work together. Wagner made the unusual move of naming a running mate early in the campaign, despite the fact that the two offices are on the ballot independent of each other in the primary.
Bartos, a successful businessman from southeastern Pennsylvania, originally wanted to run for the U.S. Senate, but made the switch to run with Wagner. If elected, he’d be an integral part of the Wagner Administration. His business savvy, problem-solving ability and focus on economic growth will be on full display throughout the rest of the campaign.
Wagner wants to shake things up in Harrisburg. He already has. Looking to build on his record, he’ll focus on the fact that “Harrisburg has a spending problem.”
Wolf will try to run from his record of attempting to raise the taxes of every Pennsylvania taxpayer, something he attempted to do with his first proposed budgets but throttled back with the one for election year.
Voters will have to ask themselves what Tom Wolf, should he be re-elected and knowing he’ll never have to again face the voters, would want in a second term. Pennsylvania families don’t believe their lives will be better if they have less of their own money to spend each week.
If Wagner can fully connect with the growing populist movement that rejects bigger government and the heavy tax burden that goes with it, he’s got a real shot at being the second man to defeat an incumbent governor.
In the race for U.S. Senate, Lou Barletta held off a tough challenge from State Rep. Jim Christiana and now faces Sen. Bob Casey in a race with national implications.
Barletta will need to close the funding gap and solidly his base. Then he can aggressively go after Casey, who has, like much of his party, lurched dramatically left in recent years.
Casey positioned himself as a moderate Democrat in the mold of his father early in his career. More recently he became an acolyte for Barack Obama, and has continued as a voice for the resistance strain of Trump opposition.
It’s Casey’s lack of legislative accomplishment that will haunt him during the campaign. Voters will be asked what Casey has done in the 12 years he’s served in the Senate. Without signature legislation to point to, that’s a challenge for Casey.
Democrats are still hoping for a “blue wave” in November. However, by nominating far-left candidates for congress and out and out socialist for several legislative seats, their chances are significantly diminished.
Although Democrats still outnumber Republicans by large margins in the Keystone State, self-proclaimed socialists on the Democrat line move moderate Democrats and swing voting independents into the Republican column.
Finally, the Democrats plan to run solely as the resistance to Trump may not look as good as it did a few months ago. The president’s numbers continue to improve.
There’s a lot of road to cover between now and November, but a few more left turns by the Democrats might just lead them off the cliff.