Wagner vs. Wolf
Republican Wagner will oppose Wolf for PA governor
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Republicans picked a tough-talking state senator and a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump to be their party’s nominees for governor and U.S. Senate, setting the stage for what is expected to be a hotly contested general election two years after Pennsylvania helped deliver the White House to Trump.
State Sen. Scott Wagner, a garbage magnate, will face incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, while U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta will take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
The Republican gubernatorial candidates spent more than $20 million on the primary ballot’s marquee race. The GOP contest for U.S. Senate was sleepier but could still play a role come November in deciding whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber.
Farther down the ballot, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack became the first holder of the office to lose in a primary, while all six incumbent U.S. House members — three Republicans and three Democrats — turned back primary challenges following Pennsylvania’s court-ordered redrawing of congressional maps. The new districts are expected to give Democrats their best shot in years of picking up seats long held by Republicans.
Voters also chose candidates for a host of open seats in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Bad weather knocked out power to a handful of polling stations near Scranton, delaying the counting of paper ballots, while a storm-related gas leak temporarily closed a polling place in the tiny borough of Delaware Water Gap, in the Poconos, according to the Pocono Record. Officials there were keeping it open until 10:30 p.m.
Another threat — hacking — was not expected to be a factor in Tuesday’s election.
Pennsylvania was one of the 21 states targeted by Russian hackers ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to federal authorities, but the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday said there were no credible threats to the state’s election system.
Wagner, the GOP’s endorsed candidate, spent $10 million of his own money to beat a pair of political newcomers in Paul Mango, a former health care systems consultant and ex-Army paratrooper, and Laura Ellsworth, a commercial litigation attorney.
Wagner and Wolf are both York County residents who made millions in business before entering politics. The similarities end there.
Wolf is soft-spoken where Wagner is brash. Wolf has a Ph.D. from MIT; Wagner didn’t graduate from college.
Their policy differences are just as stark.
Wagner, who’s compiled one of the Senate’s most conservative voting records, fashions himself as a garbage man coming to clean up a wasteful state government that chokes the economy with regulations and taxes.
The Republican wasted no time in going after Wolf.
“The people will have a clear choice this fall — a bold disruptor who isn’t afraid to tell you like it is or a timid leader who is more interested in getting re-elected than getting things done,” he said in his victory speech Tuesday.
Wolf likely will attack Wagner as posing a danger to programs for children, schools and seniors.
John Fetterman won a five-way Democratic Party primary race for lieutenant governor, making Lt. Gov. Mike Stack the first holder of the office to lose in a primary election.
The Braddock mayor’s victory Tuesday means he will run on a ticket with Wolf in the fall.
Jeff Bartos, a real estate investor from suburban Philadelphia, beat three other candidates to win the Republican nomination.
Stack, a former Philadelphia state senator, has had a chilly relationship with Wolf in their first term together. Pennsylvania first started allowing lieutenant governors to serve a second term in the 1970s.
Wolf last year ordered an investigation into the treatment of state employees, including state police troopers, by Stack and his wife and stripped Stack of state police protection. Stack later said his wife entered a residential treatment facility for a mental health issue.
A candidate for lieutenant governor runs independently of gubernatorial candidates in primary elections, but joins the party’s nominee on the general election ticket.
The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and chairs the state pardons board, among other responsibilities. The lieutenant governor also steps in if a governor is unable to serve or leaves office.
Barletta first made a name for himself more than a decade ago when, as mayor of a small city, he tried to crack down on illegal immigration. He was among Trump’s earlier supporters and Trump, in turn, asked Barletta to run for Senate. The president is expected to visit Pennsylvania to campaign for him.
Barletta, who easily dispatched his Republican rival, state Rep. Jim Christiana, had spent the primary campaign focusing on Casey, the two-term Democrat and son of the late former governor.
In brief remarks in his hometown of Hazleton, Barletta said Tuesday night that Casey has tried to “resist, reject and obstruct” Trump’s agenda, and has moved so far left he doesn’t represent Pennsylvania any more.
In a statement, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party singled out Barletta’s tough stance on illegal immigration, saying he had built his political career on “scapegoating immigrants.” It also said Barletta backed Republican efforts to slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy and attack Medicare and Social Security, and that he would put Trump’s interests ahead of the people of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania hosted 21 contested primary races for the state’s 18 U.S. House seats, the most since 1984. The fact that seven seats came open this year helped spur the unusually high number of contested races.
Also contributing: Democrats’ anti-Trump fervor and a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s congressional maps to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans. The court mandated a redrawing of the maps.
All six incumbents — Democrats Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh, Brendan Boyle of Philadelphia and Dwight Evans, also of Philadelphia; and Republicans Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, Tom Marino of Lycoming County and Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster — turned back primary challenges.
In Havertown — a Philadelphia suburb that used to be in a majority-Republican congressional district but is now in a newly reshaped majority-Democratic district — Republican voter Eileen McCormick cast her ballot at a Presbyterian church on Tuesday but seemed resigned to her party’s chances in November.
“I shouldn’t say this, but that was a wasted vote. That’s going Democratic,” she said.
Another voter, Julie Nelson, said she voted for Democrat Greg Vitali in the crowded 5th District primary. She said of the political shift with redistricting: “It’s about time. It’s what we need.”
There were dozens of primaries for 228 legislative seats on the ballot, as Republicans looked to defend huge majorities in the House and the Senate.
There were also three special elections to fill three House vacancies.