PA GOP Gubernatorial Nominee Scott Wagner—“The Russians And Paul Manafort Are Going to Help Me” September 2, 2018
Remember, on 11/06/2018 mid-term Election Day, not only is control of the U.S. House and, possibly, the Senate in play. The composition of state legislatures and 36 state governorships will also be contested. Again, as I have previously stated and will repeat again, gubernatorial races in Campaign 2018 are not just about partisan bragging rights. The governors elected in 2018 will be in office after the 2020 census, when new state legislative and congressional districts will be drawn. Because GOPers won the majority of governor and state legislative races in 2010, “Team Red” was able to lopsidedly gerrymander state and congressional districts in their favor until 2020, a decade. Currently, GOPers control 33 governorships to “Team Blue’s” 16, with one independent (Coolican, startribune.com, 8/15/18, realclearpolitics.com). Besides having to flip many GOP gubernatorial chairs “Blue,” if Democrats want to win a majority of state chief executive posts, they will have to retain the ones they currently have where the “Blue” incumbent is running for re-election.
One such gubernatorial chair lies in PA. The Keystone State is considered a swing state. Demagogue Donald beat Hillary here in 2016 by .7%. In 2012, Obama had won by a 5% margin (nytimes.com/elections, 8/01/17, CQ Political Almanac 14). In 2014, Democrat Tom Wolf flipped the gubernatorial seat “Blue”. GOPers, however, believe that they can “paint” the PA Governor’s chair “Red,” once again, by using the 2016 Trump formula—getting super- strong blue-collar and rural turnout to back a brash Trump-like gubernatorial nominee. This year, Scott Wagner is the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate. Let’s hone in on this race.
In a recording, PA GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner jokingly proclaimed on 8/17/2018 that, “By the way, the Russians are going to help me with Tom Wolf.” Laughter and applause came from his Republican audience. Wagner added, “If I have to use Paul Manafort, I will (huffingtonpost.com, Nelson, 8/20/18).” Manafort? Manafort, remember, was Trump’s former campaign manager. On 8/21/2018, Manafort was convicted by an Alexandria, VA federal jury on eight counts. This trial was prosecuted by special counsel Mueller’s team. Manafort was found guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. These charges were related to his work on behalf of the largely pro-Russian government of Ukrainian Pres. Viktor Yanukovych (huffingtonpost.com, Nelson, NY Times, LaFraniere, 8/21/18). Manafort, if he does not make a deal with prosecutors about what he knows concerning Trump’s Russian 2016 campaign connections, could face 80 years in prison (CNN, 8/21/18, Wagner, M., Rocha, V., Ries, B., and Tatum, S., NY Times, La Franiere). Let’s meet Trump/Manafort loving Scott Wagner.
Scott Wagner (63), a native of York Township, PA grew up on a farm. After a semester of community college, he went into business. He opened up a ski shop, owned laundromats, was in real estate, and had a bail bonding license. In 1985, Wagner and his uncle created York Waste. Wagner ran the day-to-day operations. In 1997, Wagner and his uncle sold York Waste and opened up Penn Waste in 2000. Penn Waste prospered “bigly,” and by 2012, Wagner was worth about $20 million (ydr.com, Mahon, 5/31/18, Esack, mcall.com, 4/28/18). From 2007-2012, GOPer Wagner contributed $9.8 million to various state and federal candidates and political action committees. He helped bankroll three GOPers who won PA Senate seats that gave the GOP a supermajority (See Esack, mcall.com, 4/28/18).
In 2014, Wagner became the first PA write-in candidate to defeat both Democratic and Republican nominees. When the GOP selected another candidate to run as their nominee in a special election for the PA State Senate, Wagner ran as an “outsider,” accusing the party leaders of “rigging the system.” In his write-in-campaign, Wagner clobbered his opponent by over 21 points (pasenategop.com, 4/02/14).
Wagner has been a strong supporter of Demagogue Donald and has often been compared to him. Like Trump, he is a “big-talking, hard-charging businessman who had multiple marriages and bum-rushed his way into politics even though the GOP establishment tried to stop him. Wagner, as well as Trump, have a talent for political theater and a tendency to fly off the handle (phillymag.com, Mahon, ydr.com, 5/31/18, philly.com, 8/25/17).”
In his first and only term in the PA State Senate, strongly anti-union Wagner, in a state with a heavy union presence, successfully forced State Senate GOP leader Dominic Pileggi out of his post. Wagner went after Pileggi for being “too friendly to unions.” Wagner was also furious at Pileggi’s decision to support his opponent in the special election (pennlive.com, 9/30/14). Wagner was not known for legislative accomplishments. He was more known for dropping “F-word” bombs in caucus meetings. He pushed the state legislature in a more fiscally conservative direction. Wagner took credit for closing down three of PA’s seven unemployment compensation centers (pennlive.com, Murphy, 6/05/18).
Wagner ignores controversy, so we should not be surprised about his remarks asking for Putin’s and Manafort’s help. When arguing to end the practice of government deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks, he stated that “unions are about power and control just like Hitler was.” In 11/2014, Wagner told a radio host he’d “be sitting in the back room with a baseball bat to make leadership do more things for PA (pennlive.com, Murphy, 6/05/18).” Wagner won PA’s GOP 5/2018 gubernatorial primary in 5/2018 and resigned from the PA Senate to work on his campaign (pennlive.com, Prose, “The Beaver County Times,” 1/11/17).
And the Wagner controversy tour keeps on going non-stop. In 2017, Wagner referred to billionaire businessman, Holocaust survivor, and Democratic supporter George Soros, now a U.S. citizen, as a “Hungarian Jew” who has “a hatred for America.” Labeling Soros a Jew is a typical anti-Semitic meme still used in Hungary by that country’s governing right-wing party and its supporters (See JTA). When PA Jewish and Christian clergy asked him to apologize, Wagner refused (ydr.com, Lee, 8/27/18). Wagner rejects the scientific consensus on global change. In 2017, he stated that climate change is “caused by human body heat.” In 7/2018, Chester County, PA resident Rose Strauss challenged him on this issue. She asked Wagner if his belief on this matter is the result of money he received from the fossil fuel industry. Wagner ducked answering and called Strauss “young and naïve.” He stated Pennsylvanians are “trying to elect a governor, not a scientist (Levin, nytimes.com, 7/25/18, ydr.com, 7/19/18).” FYI, scientific issues, such as energy policy, are heavily intertwined with politics.
PA Governor Tom Wolf (69) was one of the rare bright spots for Democrats when he won election to the PA governorship in 2014. In his first few days in office, Wolf expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. He banned fracking in state parks and placed a moratorium on PA’s death penalty. He has pushed for education spending and has a strong progressive record (philly.com, Finley, 1/31/15, Slobodzian, 2/13/15, philly.com, politicspa.com, Kanuch, 3/11/15). Gov. Wolf recently visited Puerto Rico to survey the damage from last year’s Hurricane Maria and to build partnerships between PA and Puerto Rico. PA has a Puerto Rican American population of more than 350,000. Thousands of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria also traveled to PA. A study released on 8/28/2018, conducted by researchers from George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health, indicated that 2017’s Hurricane Maria killed an estimated 2,975 Puerto Ricans, nearly 3,000 American citizens living on that island (pennlive.com, 8/28/18). Despite this updated horrific death toll and the extensive damage Puerto Rico suffered, on 8/29/2018, Demagogue Donald bragged about “the fantastic” job the federal government had done there. PA’s Puerto Rican Americans and the rest of the country, however, still remember Donald’s idea of Puerto Rican relief-- throwing paper towels at stricken residents.
A Franklin & Marshall (F&M) College Poll taken between 8/20 and 8/26/2018, gave Wolf a 20-point lead over Wagner. A Marist Poll done between 8/12 and 8/16/2018 gave Wolf a 14% margin. Trump, who carried PA in 2016, now has a low 38% job approval rating (see lancasteronline.com, Janesch, 8/30/18). However, never “misunderestimate” self-funding Wagner who will be able to dump anti-Wolf ads on the air like the garbage he used to dump.
GOPers are well aware that control of the House runs through PA where a fair redistricting plan supported by Wolf has increased Democrats’ chances for several congressional pick-ups (See nytimes.com, Flegenheimer and Kaplan, 8/19/18). Bet on GOP state, national, and private groups like Koch Industries to pour millions of dollars in negative ads into the state attacking Wolf and his fellow Democrats. Such negative GOP campaigning could decrease Dem. turnout in PA, as it did in 2016. Crude extremist Wagner could then have a chance to win or make it close. GOPers could, additionally, hold on to their congressional seats and, therefore, their House majority. Yes, PA Democrats, right now, are very enthusiastic about voting in 11/ 2018. Two-thirds of Keystone State voters who plan to vote for a Democratic House candidate said they are voting that way to oppose Donald and his GOP Congress. However, 3/4 of those voting for the “Red team” plan to do that to support Donald and his Republican Congress. Demagogue Donald will probably come to PA to prop up Wagner and xenophobic Lou Barletta who is running against Dem. U.S. Senator Bob Casey. Casey also has a 20-point F&M polling lead, but we are still political eons away from 11/06/2018, Election Day.
How do Democrats continue to counter the Wagner/Trump/ Koch GOP onslaught? They, must, of course, financially help Wolf and his “Blue” congressional allies with financial aid. However, the key, again, is the “T” word-- “Turnout,” “Turnout,” “Turnout.” if Democrats in PA and elsewhere turn out in droves on 11/06/2018, GOPers will be soundly defeated. Even with Manafort’s conviction and Trump fixer Michael Cohen pleading guilty, Democratic victories are “not in the bag.” It’s all about turnout. When Democrats in PA and throughout the nation vote, we win.