Saturday, December 20, 2014

Watch out for Wagner

Now that he's lost a bid for Pittsburgh mayor, could Jack Wagner become a candidate for governor?

Watch out for Wagner

Pennsylvania Auditor General and candidate for governor Jack Wagner listens to a question during  a 90-minute debate  Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pa. Six candidates running for Pennsylvania Governor in the May 18th primary election participated in a debate focused on issues of good government including campaign finance and election reform, ethics and redistricting.  (AP Photo/Jason Minick)
Pennsylvania Auditor General and candidate for governor Jack Wagner listens to a question during a 90-minute debate Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pa. Six candidates running for Pennsylvania Governor in the May 18th primary election participated in a debate focused on issues of good government including campaign finance and election reform, ethics and redistricting. (AP Photo/Jason Minick)

Former state Auditor General Jack Wagner lost his bid Tuesday to become Pittsburgh's next mayor -- he was handily beaten by City Councilman Bill Peduto -- but given Wagner's long record in public office and his penchant for seeking public office one wonders whether he could shake up the 2014 race for governor?

The long-standing rule in PA politics is that in a large Democratic primary field a Western PA candidate has an edge. This is due to historic regional allegience western voters hold for western candidates, and the idea has been bobbing around lately since all Democratic candidates lining up to challenge Gov. Corbett are from the eastern side of the state.

Wagner, 65, a decorated Vietnam veteran, has served on Pittsburgh City Council, in the state Senate and for two terms as state auditor general.

But he's also run for lieutenant governor, narrowly finishing second in an eight-way primary in 2002 to Catherine Baker Knoll (also from Allegheny County). And he ran for governor in 2010, finishing second in a four-way primary to Dan Onorato (also from Allegheny County).

Tuesday night Wagner did not rule out another run for public office. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "You never know what the future brings."

We do, however, know what the past brought: an edge for Western PA candidates.

A classic example was the 2000 U.S. Senate primary in which five Democrats from the eastern part of the state lost to one from the western part. Congressman Ron Klink won the six-way race with 40% of the vote. Among eastern candidates losing that year? A state senator from Philly by the name of Allyson Schwartz. She finished second. Klink went on to lose to then-incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum.

Not saying history always repeats itself. Just saying eastern Democrats running in 2014 might want to watch out for Wagner.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected