POLS ON THE STREET: POLS ON THE STREET: Dueling Millionaires – Who’s Open, Who’s Nice?

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NORRIS APARTMENTS at 11th & Lehigh Avenue, a 50-unit PHA project, celebrated its groundbreaking Monday Digging in were, L-R, Laborers’ Local 332 Business Manager Sam Staten, Jr., PHA President Kelvin Jeremiah, Temple University President Richard Englert, City Council president Darrell Clarke, PHA Board of Commissioners Chair Lynette Brown-Sow, Congressman Dwight Evans, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and PHA Commissioner Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Two York County big businessmen turned state political leaders. Two guys who pay a lot of taxes. Two different responses.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf made his full 2017 tax returns available for review earlier this month. He reported about $414,000 in adjusted gross income in 2017—down quite a bit from previous years – and nearly $1.3 million in charitable donations. It was a no-fuss, no-strings-attached data dump.

His Republican challenger, former State Sen. Scott Wagner, has doubled down on keeping his tax returns a secret. In this, he is defying decades of bipartisan political tradition – but hewing to the iconoclastic Trump movement, which rejects old proprieties.

At the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg last month, Wagner explained his position: “I’ve complied with all requirements as a senator, as a candidate. I started my business from scratch. How much I made is nobody’s business. I paid my bills, I don’t owe any back taxes. The State said I’m in full compliance.”

MAYOR Jim Kenney visited Yolanda’s Kids Corner in Logan, a pre-K center funded by the Sweetened Drinks Tax, to kick off the school year. Proprietor Yolanda Ellis, in red, gave the mayor a tour. Photo by Wendell Douglas

At an earlier event in Erie, Wagner noted that his tax returns might give unionists a tool with which to unionize his workers (Wagner provides trash removal for public and private customers).

“If I disclose those tax returns,’ Wagner said then, “union representatives get a hold of my tax returns, go around to my employees’ homes at night and say, ‘Hey, Mrs. Jones, how much does your husband make?’ She goes, ‘Well, he makes this.’ ‘Well, this guy makes a lot more.’”

A strong incumbent might get away with this stance. But it’s a weak case for a challenger, to be sneakier than thou vis-à-vis his opponent. In all fairness, it worked for Trump. But it will not appeal to centrists, independents and suburbanites.

“Are you interested in how much money my company gives to the local community every year?” Wagner asked press-club interrogators. He did not go on to tell the press how much. But nobody had to ask Wolf; he told us, whether we were interested or not.

WARD LEADERS of Color met at Belmont Mansion last week to gear up for the fall campaign. Democratic Party Chair Congressman Bob Brady stressed their vital role in winning key statewide races. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Wagner Lands a Philadelphia Re-Entry Pro

Working for Wagner’s campaign in Philadelphia is a leader in the city’s movement to foster criminal re-entry.

Tracey L. Fisher, CEO of Gateway to Re-Entry, has been vigorous in re-entry counseling for several years. It is active at Myers Rec Center in Southwest Philadelphia. His program is nebulously affiliated with the International Institute for Advanced Instruction; it has a curriculum for program providers. He has been outspoken on behalf of Wagner, whom he describes as a man with a heart that deserves whole-hearted support.

Wagner donated two vans to Gateway to Re-Entry last year, painted with a Wagner campaign message.

STATE SEN. Larry Farnese, L, organized an open house of 23 agencies that deal with substance addiction. Executive Director Mike Dahl of Broad Street Ministries hosted the event.

Sims Is Battered Again – but from the Left?

Based on purely on policy, no observer would ever have predicted that State Rep. Brian Sims (D-S. Phila) would face constant challenges.

First elected in 2012, Sims is an audacious, youthful politico who typifies his 180th Legislative District in being politically and socially progressive – as well as gay. This affluent Center City district is the center of the Gayborhood and a tacit consensus has grown that it’s an LGBTQ seat. The last straight candidate in that district retired early and quietly from the primary race.

Yet they keep coming after him, primary after primary…

And now the general election. James McDevitt, who has been described as a “gay Berniecrat socialist,” is opposing Sims as an independent in November.

McDevitt dismisses Sims as a “corporate lawyer.” He’s an advocate for banning fracking, legalizing marijuana and lowering medical-malpractice premiums (an issue in Philadelphia’s medical industry). He would also attack racism in the Gayborhood.

Sims did a hard probe of McDevitt’s ballot petitions and gave up. As a result, this will be the first Pennsylvania general election in which two openly gay candidates have opposed each other.

AG Shapiro Rises as Catholic Clergy Sink

STATEWIDE Republican campaign leader for Philadelphia Ross Wolfe explained to a West Philly crowd of activists how good streetwork can help even minority-party activists build wins for the top of the party’s ticket.

It was not an issue Attorney General Josh Shapiro – or anybody else – wanted. But it is an issue that will propel the energetic young Democrat’s career.

The AG’s Office has released its report on a two-year probe into sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania. It is being assailed in several ways before the State courts, guaranteeing Shapiro a couple of years of bold headlines.

The Catholic vote is substantial in Pennsylvania – including in moribund factory towns where Democratic candidates have increasingly struggled.

But no voters pay closer attention to this church scandal than Catholic voters. And polls show most Catholics do not feel their church has handled this issue well.

If Shapiro handles his investigations well, he may win not just name recognition, but actual support, from this swing constituency.

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