POLS ON THE STREET: The Stack Attack Is Back

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LT. GOV. Mike Stack is Philadelphia’s most highly placed elected official.

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack announced he will seek re-election at City Hall yesterday, surrounded by a legion of Philadelphia political leaders.
A Northeast Democratic ward leader of long standing and former state senator, Stack is Philadelphia’s highest-ranked statewide elected official. As the lieutenant governor presides over the State Senate, his position gives him some sway in our top legislative body.

This is crucial particularly for Democrats in 2018. Even if their Gov. Tom Wolf wins re-election and Democrats fare well in the off-year election, they are certain to return to a powerful Republican majority in the General Assembly. To accomplish anything, they will need an interlocutor with the lawmakers.

Wolf has shown a shrewd grasp of the administrative duties of the Governor’s Office. As a politician, he is still on a learning curve. His independent attempts to negotiate with the General Assembly have produced little and late throughout his first term. Perhaps it is time for him to call a professional.

Observers would also advise him to back a Philadelphian in the 2018 primary. Philadelphia comprises 20% of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary vote. This base could, in theory, be beaten by an out-of-town outsider with united muscle.
But that’s not what Stack is up against. Instead, he’s faced with three primary foes – two from metropolitan Pittsburgh and one from suburban Philadelphia.

In a four-way race, why would any Philadelphian vote for an out-of-towner? Democrats will commend Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone for her success in flipping her county from red to blue. But she has no track record of furthering Philadelphia in her career.

John Fetterman, the charismatic mayor of the small Pittsburgh mill-town suburb of Braddock, ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary to challenge U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in last year’s Democratic primary. an Iraq War veteran and former congressional candidate from Westmoreland County. This opens a window for Stack and the Southeast to win this primary.

Look for Fetterman, Berringer and Cozzone staffers to dialog intensively to get one or the other to drop out between now and February. But it’s not clear any one team has a valid reason to drop out in favor of a rival.

All three are young and have statewide ambitions. Well, the best way to advance statewide ambitions is to run a full statewide race, to learn the circuit.And it’s not like a lieutenant governor can punish his unsuccessful rivals. The LG can do things, but he cannot really undo other people’s things. So challenging Stack hurts no challengers; it can only further their careers.

Stack’s challengers will have to deal with a united Philadelphia base. He is supported by Congressman Bob Brady (D-Phila.); State Sens. Vince Hughes and Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.); parolee Thurmond Berry, Pennsylvania veteran; and Media Mayor Bob McMahon. Philadelphia Democratic City Committee and labor leaders’ endorsements come with.

Stack’s campaign will tout “a groundbreaking record of reform and achievement,” according to Marty Marks, Stack’s campaign spokesman, “that began long before the age of Trump.”

Stack, an active Army Reserve member, has good ties with veterans. He shored up his hometown base during 14 years in the Pennsylvania Senate and is working on matters important to Philadelphia such as restorative justice.

In 2014, Stack won half the vote in a five-way contested primary that included a former Member of Congress, a member of the state legislature, a county commissioner and a municipal elected official. Since then, he’s been all across the state in myriad local venues.

With three other ducks in the water, some Philly Democratic politicos, especially of the progressive breed, will be tempted to step outside and back an out-of-town politician for lieutenant governor. But it’s hard to see why many Democrats in our home town would want to reduce Philadelphia’s influence in Harrisburg to zero by eliminating Stack.

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