POLS ON THE STREET: Warring Republicans Strengthen Wolf’s Hand

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CONGRESSIONAL aide Donald “Ducky” Birts serves a tour of duty as Santa Claus at Laborers’ Local 332’s holiday party for children in West Poplar. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Over the winter holiday weekend, most political maneuvering grinds to a halt. In Philadelphia, at least.

But in the hinterlands of Pennsylvania, there is no peace on the Wyoming Valley, the Dutch Country or Southwestern Pennsylvania. There, the war for the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in the spring 2018 primary rages unabated.

Republican candidates seeking to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf abound. That may signal good news for Republicans: multiple candidates usually are attracted by easy prey.
But it’s hard to read the signals for the 2018 election. Republican President Donald Trump is broadly unpopular among most Pennsylvanians – but the Republican primary voter base remains loyal to him.

Thus, the numerous Republican aspirants to the gubernatorial nomination in March 2018 all face an uphill battle. Their strategies must calculate how to hold the hard-core Trump-lovers in their base while reaching out to moderates in their fringe.

YOUNG DEMOCRATS enjoyed a lively holiday party at Chickie’s & Pete’s on Roosevelt Boulevard. Flanking City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley were DCC Chair Congressman Bob Brady, L, and affable former City Controller Jonathan Saidel – forever Young Democrats at heart. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Good news for Democrats is that four Republican challengers to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will be bad-mouthing each other from now till May. Collectively, they will dig up enough dirt on each of them to make Wolf’s job easier in the general – without Wolf spending a dime.

Three are from greater Pittsburgh: business execs Laura Ellsworth and Paul Mango, along with Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). One is from the Dutch Country: State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York).

All profess fealty to Trump. But who is Trumpier than Trump; and does that help them or hurt them?

Mango has come out of the gate condemning sexual harassment – a hot-button issue now – citing his female family members as witnesses to his probity. Okay. He would be the first GOP gubernatorial hopeful to seek to surf on the wave of #MeToo. That may matter in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the Dutch Country cities.

But it’s not enough to be a good guy in a four-way primary. One must concentrate on busting one’s rivals.

STATE SEN. Vincent Hughes celebrated the holidays with a charitable fundraiser. L-R were Portia Hurst, Hughes’ wife Sheryl Lee with rescue dog, Hughes, Sandi Ogburn and Denise Gardner. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Mango appears to be doing that as he targets Wagner, who was first out of the gate in the Republican primary race. Wagner has closely identified with Trump, to the point that there is no room for other Republicans to paint themselves as Trumpier than him. Mango must find ways to attack Wagner that appeal to conservatives without referencing The Donald.

Now Mango is pounding Wagner on his no-show record in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Wagner rose to the surface in the last senatorial election cycle as an outsider who would bring business sense to State government. Wagner owns a prosperous business carting away trash for Dutch Country municipalities.

But Mango is hammering Wagner for not going to work in the chamber he sought election to.

POSING with Santa Claus at State Sen. Tina Tartaglione’s new office were State Rep. Angel Cruz, the Grinch, Santa, Carmen the Elf, Tartaglione and Cindy Lou from Whoville. Photo by Leona Dixon

Matt Beynon, advisor to the Mango for Governor campaign, said, “Scott Wagner needs to come clean about his own record. He had over a week to get his facts straight but still either doesn’t know his own voting record or is trying to mislead the people of Pennsylvania about his failure to serve. Scott Wagner missed 109 votes during his time in the Pennsylvania State Senate; that is more than any other member of the Senate. Fact.”

Wagner illustrates the dilemma that all anti-government Republican extremists face. If everything government does is bad, then obviously no elected Republican should ever show up for work. But this is completely untenable as a governing principle. People who have sworn to destroy all government do not make good leaders of good governments.

Polls suggest that Wolf can be unseated. But there is no sign yet that any particular Republican knows how to unseat him.

CONGRESSMAN Bob Brady, 9th from R, chairman of Democratic City Committee, and staff are on hand each year as a multitude of well-wishers pop in on Spring Garden Street to say a Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa hello with them. Brady has transformed his party from a “machine” into a family of rowhouse neighbors on duty for constituents. Photo by Joe Stivala

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