GOP can­di­dates dis­agree over at­tack ads, unions, wage law

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - NEWS - By Marc Levy

HARRISBURG, PA. » Laura Ellsworth is try­ing to take ad­van­tage of back-and-forth TV at­tack ads in Penn­syl­va­nia’s Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary to win votes, as ri­vals in the three-way con­test clashed Mon­day over fun­da­men­tal is­sues for lead­ing busi­ness groups.

Mon­day’s fo­rum spon­sored by a statewide de­vel­op­ers’ trade as­so­ci­a­tion dealt largely with bread-and-but­ter ques­tions for in­dus­try mem­bers, such as wage laws, per­mit­ting rules and health care costs.

But Ellsworth, a first­time can­di­date and sub­ur­ban Pitts­burgh com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion at­tor­ney who played a promi­nent role in steer­ing the city’s civic and busi­ness in­sti­tu­tions, turned the crowd’s at­ten­tion to the sharp-el­bowed TV ads fly­ing be­tween fel­low Repub­li­cans Scott Wag­ner and Paul Mango.

In her clos­ing re­marks at the 90-minute fo­rum spon­sored by the As­so­ci­ated Builders and Con­trac­tors of Penn­syl­va­nia, she urged Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers to pick the per­son best able to beat Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf in the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion.

That per­son, she said, “has com­ported them­selves with ci­vil­ity and de­cency and honor and has a track record of decades of per­for­mance in the civic sec­tor on your be­half . ... That’s the per­son who will win, that’s the per­son who needs to win the pri­mary.”

Ellsworth has not put nearly the amount of her own money into her cam­paign as have Mango and Wag­ner, and she has not aired a TV ad yet.

But the fight be­tween Mango and Wag­ner is pro­vid­ing an open­ing to dis­tin­guish her­self, as each works to woo vot­ers in the May 15 pri­mary.

In large part, all three are aligned with the busi­ness com­mu­nity, tend­ing to sin­gle out tax bur­dens, per­mit­ting de­lays, bu­reau­crats or reg­u­la­tions as choice tar­gets.

Still, Mango veered from or­tho­doxy among Repub­li­cans and busi­ness groups that are press­ing to make Penn­syl­va­nia the na­tion’s 29th “right to work” state.

Mango, a for­mer health care sys­tems con­sul­tant and first-time can­di­date, said fights be­tween man­age­ment and blue-col­lar unions are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive in the quest to out­com­pete China and In­dia. Such a law also would hurt po­lice, fire­fight­ers and union mem­bers who are oth­er­wise sym­pa­thetic to the Repub­li­can Party, he said.

“You’re talk­ing about the for­got­ten men and women that Pres­i­dent Trump handed to the Repub­li­can Party,” Mango said. “You’re talk­ing about peo­ple who are pro-life, pro-guns, pro­fam­ily, pro-veteran, pro-work. You’re talk­ing about folks who are go­ing to train the next gen­er­a­tion of skilled la­bor in their ap­pren­tice­ship shops, and I’m not pre­pared to throw law en­force­ment and our fire­fight­ers under the bus.”

Mango sin­gled out teach­ers’ unions as an ex­am­ple of or­ga­nized la­bor that he would not pro­tect from a right-to-work pol­icy.

Right-to-work laws pro­hibit re­quire­ments that em­ploy­ees join a union or pay union dues or fees as a con­di­tion of em­ploy­ment. Sup­port­ers say it im­proves the busi­ness cli­mate, while crit­ics con­tend it bleeds unions of money and bar­gain­ing power. The U.S. Supreme Court is mean­while con­sid­er­ing a case that could strip the power of unions in all states, in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, from col­lect­ing fees from gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees who choose not to join.

On a ques­tion about rais­ing the min­i­mum wage, Wag­ner said he would sup­port rais­ing it to around $9.50 an hour from the cur­rent fed­eral min­i­mum of $7.25.

Hardly any­one pays the fed­eral min­i­mum, Wag­ner said, and rais­ing it would al­low pol­i­cy­mak­ers to move on to more im­por­tant top­ics.

Mango and Ellsworth out­lined their op­po­si­tion, in­clud­ing what they viewed as hurt­ing en­try-level op­por­tu­ni­ties for teenagers. That prompted Wag­ner to add that reg­u­la­tory schemes make it prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to hire a 16-year-old.

“What would be wrong with a 14-year-old stu­dent work­ing in a restau­rant wash­ing dishes?” Wag­ner ques­tioned. “We have made reg­u­la­tions so oner­ous on busi­ness own­ers we can’t hire them.”

Given a chance to re­spond, Mango said, “Then why isn’t the se­na­tor fo­cused on re­duc­ing reg­u­la­tory bur­dens rather than rais­ing the min­i­mum wage?”

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