TWO GUYS, ONE HOME­TOWN

It’s the first time two ma­jor-party can­di­dates vy­ing for gover­nor are from York.

The Times-Tribune - - CAPITOL WATCH - BY SAM JANESCH, BRAD BUMSTED AND PAULA KNUD­SEN THE CAU­CUS

At Cen­ter and Front streets in York, Gov. Tom Wolf ’s house, hid­den be­hind lush fo­liage and only slightly larger than neigh­bor­ing lower-mid­dle-class homes, sits along the train tracks that di­vide Mount Wolf, named af­ter the gover­nor’s an­ces­tors, and neigh­bor­ing Manch­ester.

Across the tracks, a boarded-up brick build­ing is be­ing pre­pared to be torn down for a new park. A win­dow dis­play in the build­ing across Cen­ter Street tells the story of the lot’s his­tory, from its orig­i­nal pur­chase 272 years ago to its more re­cent sale by the Wolf fam­ily to Ot­ter­bein Church.

And just a few yards from the house, where Wolf’s 2006 Jeep Wran­gler sits in a drive­way along­side Penn­syl­va­nia State Po­lice ve­hi­cles, a small green Penn Waste dump­ster waits for the gover­nor’s garbage. Penn Waste is the trash and re­cy­cling com­pany owned by Wolf ’s op­po­nent, former state Sen. Scott Wag­ner, a Repub­li­can.

Rick Kopp, who runs the Ot­ter­bein Church’s Gap Youth Cen­ter around the cor­ner, said he some­times sees the gover­nor tak­ing out his re­cy­cling. “I’ll holler, ‘Hey, Tom,’ or, ‘Hey, gover­nor!’ And he waves back,” said Kopp, 61, of Dover Twp.

The fact that Wolf still lives in his own house, drives his car (when the state po­lice al­low it) and gives his salary to char­ity are some things Kopp said he re­ally does ad­mire about Wolf. He de­clined to say who he’ll vote for come Novem­ber, but said “it’s humbling, it’s an honor” that both ma­jor-party gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates call York County home.

Eleven miles south in Spring Gar­den Twp., the Wag­ner res­i­dence, with its sim­ple brick fa­cade and clean-cut grass, is among dozens of sub­ur­ban prop­er­ties that are part of a home­own­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion. The yards are well-groomed and evenly spaced. Just a cou­ple min­utes down the road to­ward town is York Col­lege of Penn­syl­va­nia. And one of the clos­est cam­pus build­ings to Wag­ner’s neigh­bor­hood is Wolf Hall, named af­ter the gover­nor’s late grand­par­ents, Eve­lyn and Earle Wolf.

The Nov. 6 elec­tion marks the first time in York County his­tory that the two ma­jor party can­di­dates vy­ing for the top job in Har­ris­burg re­side in the county.

York is Penn­syl­va­nia’s eighth­largest county, with 446,000 peo­ple and a rich his­tory dat­ing to the pre­rev­o­lu­tion­ary War era. The only Penn­syl­va­nia gover­nor from York be­fore Wolf was the late Demo­crat Ge­orge Leader, who served from 1955 to 1959. His op­po­nent was from Mont­gomery County. Be­sides Leader and Wolf, York County has pro­duced two lieu­tenant gov­er­nors, Chauncey For­ward Black in the late 1800s and Sa­muel S. Lewis in the mid-20th cen­tury, said James Mcclure, ed­i­tor of the York Daily Record and a his­tory buff.

“For years, it’s been a source of dis­cus­sion around York County as to why the county hasn’t pro­duced more gov­er­nors, given our prox­im­ity to Har­ris­burg,” said Mcclure.

Many York County res­i­dents in­ter­viewed by The Cau­cus brushed off the unique as­pect of two York Coun­tians fac­ing off.

“When peo­ple talk pol­i­tics, I don’t hear it,” said Mary Bortz, a 33-year-old sin­gle mother who was smok­ing a cig­a­rette on a stoop on Broad­way Street in Hanover. A Repub­li­can, Bortz said the last time she voted was when she was 18 years old. She was aware of Wolf but was not sure of who Wag­ner was, or what his plat­form was.

A cer­tain per­cent­age of cit­i­zens ig­nore pol­i­tics, said Char­lie Ba­cas, a York Demo­crat, but York res­i­dents fol­low­ing state pol­i­tics are cer­tainly aware of the unique na­ture of the Wolf-wag­ner matchup.

Former York Mayor John Bren­ner said there’s a “buzz” in the county about Wolf and Wag­ner both be­ing from York.

“I don’t think this preva­lence of York Coun­tians at the top of the ticket has yet be­come a mean­ing­ful mo­ment in the county,” Mcclure said. “Per­haps it will be­come a big­ger deal closer to the elec­tion.”

The scope is even broader than the gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates. John Fet­ter­man, who won the Demo­cratic pri­mary for lieu­tenant gover­nor, grew up in Springetts­bury Twp., a sub­urb of York. His fa­ther’s in­sur­ance com­pany is on West King Street, about a block from City Hall, and he at­tended Cen­tral York School Dis­trict.

‘Some­thing in the water’

Rather than take it too se­ri­ously, Wolf and Wag­ner both quip about the un­usual na­ture of the race.

“There is some­thing in the water,” Wolf joked when asked how two can­di­dates from the same county end up as the state’s gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates. He noted that Au­di­tor Gen­eral Eu­gene Depasquale, a statewide elected of­fi­cial, also calls York home.

Wag­ner couldn’t ex­plain it, ei­ther. “I have no idea,” he said. “If I had the an­swer to that, I’d take the next exit and head for Las Ve­gas.”

Fet­ter­man no longer lives in York but he re­turns to cam­paign and see rel­a­tives. He re­flected on his up­bring­ing there.

“It was just a solid, mid­dle-class, Penn­syl­va­nia kind of up­bring­ing,” Fet­ter­man said. “High school foot­ball was a big thing. Go­ing to the York County Fair was a big thing. Go­ing to swim at the Plea­sure­ville pool was a big thing. It was a straight-up slice of mid­dle-class Amer­ica.”

Fet­ter­man now serves as the mayor of Brad­dock, near Pitts­burgh. He was elected sep­a­rately from Wolf in the pri­mary but is now teamed with him in the Nov. 6 elec­tion.

The prob­a­bil­ity of a matchup of two gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates from the same county is higher in larger coun­ties, mak­ing York some­what of an ex­cep­tion, said Christo­pher Borick, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Muh­len­berg Col­lege in Al­len­town. How­ever, York has been one of the fastest grow­ing coun­ties over the past decade, cen­sus data show.

Hav­ing gen­eral elec­tion can­di­dates for gover­nor from the same county has oc­curred only three times in the last 40 years — as re­cently as eight years ago. In 1978, Repub­li­can Dick Thorn­burgh, a former U.S. at­tor­ney, de­feated Demo­crat Pete Fla­herty, a former Pitts­burgh mayor, in the Al­legheny County con­test.

In a 1986 con­test be­tween Scran­ton can­di­dates, Demo­crat Robert P. Casey, a former state au­di­tor gen­eral and sen­a­tor, de­feated Repub­li­can Bill Scran­ton, a former lieu­tenant gover­nor. Former At­tor­ney Gen­eral Tom Cor­bett, a Repub­li­can from Shaler, Al­legheny County, de­feated former Al­legheny County Ex­ec­u­tive Dan Ono­rato in 2010.

GOP bas­tion

The city of York, pop­u­la­tion 43,718, is heav­ily Demo­cratic. Out­side the city “it’s as red as red can get,” Borick said. The county voter reg­is­tra­tion as of May in­cluded al­most 50 per­cent Repub­li­cans, 34 per­cent Democrats, and the rest “other” or third par­ties.

Cor­bett, who lost statewide to Wolf in 2014, de­feated Wolf in York County 57 per­cent to 43 per­cent. In the 2016 pres­i­den­tial con­test, Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump de­feated Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton 62 per­cent to 33 per­cent in York County.

How will York County go in the gu­ber­na­to­rial race?

Pre­dicted Wag­ner: “I am go­ing to win it big.”

Bren­ner, a Wolf sup­porter, doesn’t dis­agree. “There’s no ques­tion he (Wag­ner) will win,” Bren­ner said.

G. Terry Madonna, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Franklin & Mar­shall Col­lege in Lan­cas­ter, said a “blue wave” could flip re­sults in some GOP coun­ties, but he stopped short of pre­dict­ing York will be one of them.

Orville Lau­ver, who lived in York 53 years be­fore sell­ing his busi­ness and mov­ing to Lake Meade in Adams County, re­mains a mem­ber of the Red Lion Ro­tary Club. “I’m hop­ing and pray­ing for Scott Wag­ner to win. I think he will be a more hon­est rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what govern­ment is all about.”

He com­plained that Wolf is too closely tied to the pol­i­tics of Obama, who has cam­paigned for him.

“Some po­lit­i­cal ob­servers have said — and I would agree — that York County, as a whole, is not far­right, po­lit­i­cally, as some say. But it’s Repub­li­can,” said Mcclure. “In terms of ad­di­tion, York County has been shaped in re­cent years by a mi­gra­tion from Mary­lan­ders in the south, Lan­cas­ter res­i­dents from the east and Har­ris­burg-west Shore peo­ple from the north.

Pizza pol­i­tics

The Venice Pizza and Restau­rant in Manch­ester is just up the street from the rail­road tracks that di­vide Mount Wolf and Manch­ester.

“Tom Wolf for Gover­nor” signs last week fes­tooned the fence of an out­door pa­tio, as well as the restau­rant’s win­dows. The restau­rant owner, iden­ti­fied as Ed­die, said the build­ing’s owner put up the signs, a fact he ex­plains when din­ers com­plain about the po­lit­i­cal mes­sag­ing. The build­ing owner is iden­ti­fied in county records as York lawyer Frank Count­ess.

Count­ess con­firmed that ac­count, though he was not per­son­ally in­formed of the com­plaints.

“I own the build­ing. I’m the land­lord. It doesn’t sur­prise me. York is a red county and very con­ser­va­tive,” Count­ess said. He is a huge Wolf sup­porter, call­ing him a “well ed­u­cated man with in­tegrity” and a “states­man.”

On the south­ern end of the county, a young Repub­li­can sees things very dif­fer­ently. CJ Wei­gle, 23, is the chair­man of the York County Young Repub­li­cans, a group he says is the sec­ond-largest such or­ga­ni­za­tion in the state, out­side of Delaware County. Wei­gle said he is a Wag­ner sup­porter in large part be­cause of what he views as Wag­ner’s “busi­ness sense.” Wei­gle works in his fam­ily busi­ness, North Hills Floor­ing in Springetts­bury Twp.

“We need some­one who has that ex­pe­ri­ence and back­ground,” Wei­gle said. “I love the at­ti­tude he takes into govern­ment that ‘we’re go­ing to get things done.’”

Tom Wolf

Scott Wag­ner

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