State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Wagner wins GOP primary, immediately trades barbs with Wolf

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | May 16, 2018 3:54 AM
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Wagner gave his victory speech in the ballroom of the Wyndham Garden Hotel in York County. (Photo by AP)

 

(York) -- It's official: Pennsylvania's contenders for governor are both York County millionaires.

State Senator and trash-hauling businessman Scott Wagner won the Republican nomination for Governor Tuesday night--beating health systems consultant Paul Mango and lawyer Laura Ellsworth.

He's now buckling down for what promises to be a much tougher race: the general election against incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf.

Though Wagner and Wolf might technically have a lot in common, they've spent the first hours of their general election contest drawing lines in the sand.

For Wagner, the goal seems to be branding himself as a man of the people who happens to be wealthy, and labeling Wolf an out-of-touch elite.

"Listen, I'm a blue-collar guy," he told reporters. "I grew up on a farm. I grew up in a family that didn't have a lot of money. Governor Wolf grew up in an affluent family."

Meanwhile, Wolf's campaign quickly released a statement targeting Wagner's work as a state senator, calling him an obstructionist for helping block a severance tax on natural gas--one of the governor's major priorities.

In fact, as Wagner made clear in his acceptance speech, taxes--particularly property taxes that go toward schools--promise to be one of the key issues in the race.

"I'm speaking directly to all the Democrats and Independents in Pennsylvania," Wagner said to a cheering crowd. "If you want your school taxes eliminated, vote for Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos in November."

Wagner won the primary against Mango and Ellsworth handily--thanks in no small part to his ability to pump millions of his own dollars into his campaign.

But state GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio, who has endorsed Wagner, said they'll need more intense fundraising to win against Wolf.

"We'll get help from the Republican Governors Association, who has this race on the map as a very important race. And I can tell you the President of the United States wants to make sure we win here," he said.

During a primary marked by Mango and Wagner aiming negative, personal TV ads at each other, DiGiorgio repeatedly called for civility.

As the race ended, he finally got it.

Wagner was magnanimous in victory, thanking Mango and Ellsworth for "putting themselves forward as candidates."

"It's not an easy thing to go out and run a statewide campaign," he added. "You know, it's a snake pit."

And Ellsworth and Mango both said they'll support Wagner in service of a larger goal.

"All of us in this room who have fought for so long to replace our sitting governor are going to help the Republican Party win in November," Ellsworth said in her concession speech.

Mango echoed the sentiment, telling his supporters, "We must all remain focused on the most important goal, which is to defeat Governor Tom Wolf."

Primary night also gave Wagner and Wolf their running mates.

Wagner's lieutenant governor candidate is Montgomery County real estate developer Jeff Bartos, who had already been unofficially running alongside the senator.

Wolf's ticket saw an upset, with incumbent lieutenant Mike Stack losing badly to John Fetterman, the mayor of a small Allegheny County steel town.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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