A Penn­syl­va­nia shot­gun wed­ding

The Southern Berks News - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist Low­man Henry Low­man S. Henry is chair­man & CEO of the Lin­coln In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Opin­ion Re­search.

It was a photo op gone se­ri­ously wrong.

The meet up be­tween the gov­er­nor of Penn­syl­va­nia and his newly minted run­ning mate at a York County diner was sup­posed to be a cel­e­bra­tion the new par­ing. In­stead the photo had the aura of an in­com­pat­i­ble cou­ple on a blind date. The slightly built, schol­arly gov­er­nor sat pas­sively on one side of the ta­ble. On the other side, star­ing off into the dis­tance with a bored gaze, sat a hulk­ing man who could eas­ily pass for a WWE star.

And so Democrats Tom Wolf and John Fet­ter­man launched the lat­est in a long string of mis­matched tick­ets for Penn­syl­va­nia’s high­est of­fices. Over the decades Democrats in par­tic­u­lar have strug­gled with the unique sys­tem used to elect a lieu­tenant gov­er­nor. In the pri­mary, can­di­dates for gov­er­nor and lieu­tenant gov­er­nor run in sep­a­rate elec­tions. Then, they are paired to­gether as a ticket in the Gen­eral Elec­tion. Vot­ers cast but one bal­lot and get both. Thus the elec­toral fate of each are in­ter­twined.

Repub­li­cans have gen­er­ally han­dled this po­lit­i­cal odd­ity with lit­tle dif­fi­culty. State Sen. Scott Wag­ner early in the process teamed with Mont­gomery County busi­ness­man Jeff Bar­tos cam­paign­ing to­gether for the GOP nom­i­na­tions which each won hand­ily.

In 1978, tough-on-crime for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor Dick Thorn­burgh teamed with the son of a for­mer gov­er­nor, Wil­liam W. Scran­ton, III to suc­ceed the scan­dal-scarred ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov. Mil­ton Shapp. Eight years later Scran­ton es­sen­tially hand-picked State Sen. Mike Fisher to be his run­ning mate. Repub­li­cans en­dorsed and elected Tom Ridge and Mark Sch­weiker, and later Tom Cor­bett and Jim Caw­ley.

But Democrats have more re­sem­bled the old com­edy troupe the Key­stone Kops than a po­lit­i­cal party in nom­i­nat­ing their statewide ticket.

Pitts­burgh Mayor Peter Fla­herty was nom­i­nated for gov­er­nor in 1978 de­feat­ing among oth­ers for­mer state Au­di­tor Gen­eral Robert P. Casey Sr. Run­ning for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor was an Al­le­gheny County bi­ol­ogy teacher also named Robert P. Casey. He won the pri­mary, and then proved to be a drag on the ul­ti­mately los­ing ticket.

The “real” Bob Casey ran again, was pared with Cam­bria County State Se­na­tor Mark Sin­gel and won. But the re­la­tion­ship quickly turned sour as Casey re­mained a strong pro-life Demo­crat while Sin­gel em­braced his party’s pro-abor­tion or­tho­doxy. When Sin­gle ran for the U.S. Se­nate, the lack of sup­port from his erst­while po­lit­i­cal part­ner was pal­pa­ble.

And then there was the awk­ward par­ing of Philadel­phia Mayor Ed Ren­dell with State Trea­surer Cather­ine Baker Knoll. Knoll, with high name ID from mul­ti­ple statewide races won the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor. But Ren­dell kept her at arm’s length dur­ing their time in of­fice. Like­wise, cur­rent Gov. Tom Wolf has never got­ten cozy with Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.

Ac­tu­ally, that’s a bit of an un­der­state­ment. Wolf was so aghast at Stack’s an­tics — which in­cluded al­le­ga­tions he mis­treated his staff and state po­lice se­cu­rity de­tail — he or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Wolf ul­ti­mately re­voked Stack’s po­lice de­tail and made it abun­dantly clear he did not want him on the 2018 ticket.

The Democrats’ ideal pro­file as a Wolf run­ning mate was a woman from south­east­ern, Penn­syl­va­nia. But can­di­dates from that re­gion, in­clud­ing Stack, crowded the pri­mary while Fet­ter­man alone hailed from the west. Fet­ter­man tri­umphed and Tom Wolf got his wish to not have to go into the Gen­eral Elec­tion with Mike Stack as his run­ning mate.

But, Fet­ter­man could be a mixed bless­ing to the Demo­cratic ticket. He is Har­vard ed­u­cated, smart and per­son­able. But, he also ran with the en­dorse­ment of so­cial­ist U.S. Sen. Bernie San­ders and is aligned with a growing so­cial­ist move­ment on the ul­tra-Left wing fringe of the Demo­cratic Party. With Tom Wolf al­ready la­beled the most lib­eral gov­er­nor in Amer­ica by no less an au­thor­ity than the Huff­in­g­ton Post, the GOP can make the case that the Wolf-Fet­ter­man ticket is well out­side the state’s po­lit­i­cal main­stream.

One thing is cer­tain: as Wolf-Fet­ter­man go up against Wag­ner-Bar­tos, vot­ers will have a choice in Novem­ber as clear as the wa­ter in one of Penn’s Wood’s many moun­tain streams.

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