NEW YORK — Every politician comes to Pennsylvania Society with something to pitch. Usually, it’s themselves.
That job may have been hardest of all this past weekend for Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III.
The former state senator and ward leader from Northeast Philly described his effort to win reelection next year with Gov. Wolf like this: “I think I’ve been a very good lieutenant governor, and we are in lockstep in every issue that are important to the voters,” Stack said. “So I think we are a natural fit as a ticket.”
The “very good lieutenant governor” was called on the carpet earlier this year for verbal abuse he and his wife inflicted on state troopers who protected them and staffers who served them in a mansion we pay for.
There was more bad news for Stack at Pennsylvania Society, an annual gathering in New York of Pennsylvania politicians, contributors, lobbyists, and so on. But there may also be good news for him in the math and geography of next year’s primary.
First the bad: Former Gov. Ed Rendell on Monday will endorse Braddock Mayor John Fetterman for lieutenant governor in the same Philadelphia City Hall room where Stack announced his reelection bid two weeks ago.
“This isn’t anti-Mike Stack,” Rendell said Saturday at a breakfast reception at the Penn Club of New York. “I just think, whether rightly or wrongly, he’s become a drag on the ticket. And we can’t afford to lose the governorship.”
Stack was there. So was Fetterman. They also mingled in close proximity Friday evening at a law firm cocktail party at the 21 Club.
Stack said he had not heard of Rendell’s impending endorsement and tried to frame it as one of many to come in the five months between now and the primary.
Which brings us to the good news — potentially — for Stack.
He’ll be running in a primary where many loyal to his party’s local infrastructure are likely to vote because the positions for committeeperson are also on the ballot. Those are the folks who elect ward leaders.
And, given a renewal of interest in politics, fueled by the 2016 election results and everything that followed, it follows that voter turnout will be strong.
“It seems to have been my good fortune, running in races where a good turnout in Philadelphia has been beneficial,” Stack said. “I come from a very important region.”
Which brings us back to Wolf, who hails from York County and knows strong support in Philadelphia helped him win in 2014 and will be again crucial in 2018.
Pennsylvania’s odd system of pairing candidates for governor and lieutenant governor after they win the primary essentially handcuffed Stack to Wolf in 2014.
If Wolf publicly breaks those chains, what impact does that have on his support in Philadelphia, where Stack is a third-generation Democratic official?
Want to annoy Wolf? Suggest he is an observer, standing on the sidelines of a situation where he really is a player.
Except for this: Here, Wolf is so far letting things play out in the primary, neither backing Stack nor pushing him any further away than he already is.