You thought Mike Stack had problems before?
Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor has had a rough six months, since the harsh treatment he and his wife leveled at state troopers and other staffers went public in April, prompting an investigation by the state inspector general, swift punishment from Gov. Wolf, and a public apology from Stack.
Now Stack’s going to have John Fetterman to deal with.
Fetterman will secure in the Nov. 7 general election his fourth term as mayor of Braddock. He’s the only candidate on the ballot for mayor in the steel-mill town near Pittsburgh he has been working to revitalize.
Clout hears Fetterman will quickly turn his attention toward a campaign to defeat Stack’s bid for a second term as lieutenant governor in the May Democratic primary.
What a contrast.
Stack, a career politician educated in Northeast Philly ward politics, is known for being nattily attired in skinny suits. Fetterman, a Harvard University Kennedy School of Government grad, is known for outfitting his enormous frame in oversize black work shirts and pants.
Stack has been — understandably — lying low. Fetterman just made his latest national television appearance Sunday on CNN’s Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain.
Fetterman on Thursday declined to comment about his future.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell told us he met with Fetterman last month to talk about trying to unseat Stack.
“If Fetterman has the guts to run without Wolf’s blessing, I think he’ll win,” Rendell predicted. “He’s hoping to get Wolf’s blessing.”
So we asked Wolf’s campaign: Does the governor support Stack for reelection? Or will he support another candidate or remain neutral?
“No comment,” said Wolf campaign spokesman Jeff Sheridan.
Sounds pretty neutral to us.
Rendell says Fetterman could reorder the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial pecking order by becoming lieutenant governor, leaping ahead of potential candidates like state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, and Treasurer Joe Torsella.
We hear Fetterman still wants in 2022 what he wanted last year — a chance at knocking off Sen. Pat Toomey, a Lehigh County Republican who will be seeking a third term that year. Fetterman’s antiestablishment populism played well in the 2016 Democratic primary, but Katie McGinty won the nomination to challenge Toomey.
Stack, who represented the state Senate’s Fifth District for 13 years before winning election as lieutenant governor in 2014, did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.
Marty Marks, a spokesman for Stack’s campaign, shrugged off news of Fetterman’s plans and said his boss expected to be reelected.
“We don’t see him as being any different than anyone else,” Marks said of Fetterman.
Two other Democrats, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone and Aryanna Berringer of Westmoreland County, declared their candidacies this summer for lieutenant governor.
Stack is widely regarded as politically vulnerable after Wolf ordered the inspector general to investigate reports that he and his wife, Tonya, verbally abused members of their state police security detail and the household staff at their official residence near Harrisburg.
Wolf yanked Stack’s security detail and nearly all his other staffers. Stack publicly apologized for angry outbursts — he called them “Stack moments” — and his wife checked into a mental-health facility.
Let’s talk about prison
While you might have spent last weekend enjoying the pleasant, fall-like weather — and perhaps an Old-Fashioned or two? — Clout was perusing the interwebs for potential future items. And so we came across a campaign post on Facebook for Beth Grossman, the Republican candidate for district attorney.
The post had a cartoon — and we love cartoons! — of her Democratic opponent, Larry Krasner, building a brick wall while he was attached to puppet strings manned by New York billionaire George Soros.
It was captioned: “Q: What do Larry Krasner and private prisons have in common? A: They’re both financed by George Soros.”
Soros, who spent $1.4 million on an independent political action committee that backed Krasner’s campaign, is well-known for supporting progressive criminal justice reform efforts. But in the past, he reportedly purchased more than 100,000 shares of the GEO Group, the largest for-profit prison company in the U.S. (GEO and its peers have seen their fortunes improve dramatically under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has some interesting ties to the industry.)
Grossman has said she hopes to win over Philadelphians who voted for President Trump, but she apparently doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye with the Trump administration when it comes to for-profit prisons.
“When you’re talking about people’s liberties vs. profit, I find that incredibly disturbing,” Grossman told Clout. “I certainly in no way, shape, or form agree with anything Jeff Sessions advocates for.”
Quotable vs. Quotable
As the state House debated higher-education funding Wednesday night, Rep. Will Tallman (R., Adams) questioned the appropriation for the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school. Hadn’t the university declared itself a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented immigrants?
There was a buzz on the floor. Nobody seemed to know. “It’s a sanctuary,” said Rep. Jordan Harris (D., Phila.), “for dogs and cats and other animals.”
Staff writers Chris Brennan and David Gambacorta and Liz Navratil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contributed to this column. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.