You know this isn’t over, right?
As travails of Mike Stack and his missus play out like episodes in a made-for-TV drama, you know there’s more to come.
The iron-fisted fiat Gov. Wolf handed his lieutenant governor on Friday, stripping Stack of security and servants, suggests serious reasons for doing so, a signal to watch for what’s up next.
So far there’s undefined alleged abuse of staff and troopers serving and protecting Stack and wife, Tonya; an investigation by the Office of Inspector General, ordered by Wolf; and Stack billing taxpayers thousands of dollars for stays in Philly hotels while he owned a home in the city.
Oh, and a stunning “Stack moment” performance at an April 12 press conference in his Capitol office that included him entering and exiting via a balcony.
Talk about political theater.
And at that presser he ducked direct questions with lines such as, “I know I’m not perfect;” “I can do better and I will do better;” “I love the State Police of Pennsylvania;” staff is “like family;” and “I have a very strong affection for the people of Pennsylvania.”
Afterward, a former high-ranking Democratic state official told me, “Well, we know he’s a good actor.”
That’s no joke. Stack’s a card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He’s done commercials, appeared on PBS’s Christina Cooks, acted with the King of Prussia Players and Footlighters Theater in Berwyn. He played Detective Jadick, in an episode of an online TV comedy series, Finders Keepers.
And for those fond of irony, in 2015 he chatted about acting with Academy Award-winning Kevin Spacey, who was speaking at a Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and Industry dinner and joked about giving Stack a spot in a future episode of Spacey’s Netflix political hit, House of Cards.
Spacey was semi-prescient. Stack now stars in his own “House of Cards.”
His role so far is less than heroic.
Language in the governor’s hand-delivered letter to Stack on Friday was stern. Stack’s troopers/chauffeurs were gone “immediately.” Housing staff, reduced to groundskeeping, cleaning, and maintenance at the LG’s taxpayer-provided residence, will work only at specified times, only “under supervision.”
And this was ordered “to protect Commonwealth employees.”
Wow. Did the investigation turn up more than has been reported? What exactly do employees need to be protected from? And after losing his ride Friday, did Stack call Uber? Stay tuned for upcoming episodes.
Spoiler alert: The season finale could come soon.
Stack’s not in a good place for an elected official whose office has few responsibilities yet pays $162K and includes a house, with a pool, especially as he seeks reelection, which, according to his (possibly unabused) chief of staff, he intends to — or did the day before Friday.
Even if Stack survives current drip-drip embarrassments and nothing worse emerges and he runs in next year’s LG primary, he’ll be dogged by questions about, at the very least, his temperament.
And since guvs and LGs run separately in primaries but together in generals, what about Wolf?
No question he prefers Stack gone. That would be the case even minus the mess of the moment. The two are not and never have been, shall we say, BFFs.
But overt efforts to jettison Stack could create a political soft spot for Wolf.
The governor faces a competitive 2018 reelection in which Philly support is critical. Say what you will about the city’s always-loyal-to-its-own Democratic machine, but ginning up street interest and votes for an “outsider” replacing ousted homeboy Stack could reduce energy and turnout for candidate Wolf.
Not deadly. But in a close election, who knows?
Better for Wolf if Stack opts out. Better for Stack if this blows over.
Or Stack could reconnect with Spacey about a gig on House of Cards — the Netflix version, not the one Stack’s living in.