Statewide ambitions

  • On the campaign trail: The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee has endorsed Sen. Mike Stack in his run for lieutenant governor. He is the only Philadelphia-area candidate in the primary. TIMES FILE PHOTO

  • On the ballot: State Sen. Mike Stack, a Somerton resident, is running for lieutenant governor. TIMES FILE PHOTO

A year ago this time, state Sen. Mike Stack traveled to the an­nu­al Pennsylvania So­ci­ety week­end re­treat and began build­ing his cam­paign for gov­ernor.

Through much of 2013, Stack met people, es­tab­lished con­tacts and built re­la­tion­ships with folks across Pennsylvania.

“We have a great op­por­tun­ity to beat Tom Corbett and get a new gov­ernor,” he said.

Stack (D-5th dist.), a Somer­ton res­id­ent, wasn’t alone in want­ing a crack at Corbett, whose poll num­bers haven’t been good for some time.

There are eight an­nounced Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates, with U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz gen­er­ally con­sidered the front-run­ner. State Treas­urer Rob Mc­Cord, of Mont­gomery County, is also con­sidered a top-tier can­did­ate. Katie Mc­Ginty, a Rhawn­hurst res­id­ent now liv­ing in Chester County and a former sec­ret­ary of the state De­part­ment of En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion, is off to a good start. Wealthy York County busi­ness­man Tom Wolf has in­dic­ated he’ll spend a lot of money to build name re­cog­ni­tion. And if former Aud­it­or Gen­er­al Jack Wag­n­er, of Al­legheny County, enters the race, west­ern Pennsylvania voters might rally around him.

In mid-Oc­to­ber, Stack aban­doned his run for gov­ernor.

“I thought it would be dif­fi­cult in such a crowded field,” he said.

At 50, Stack said he is young enough to mount a bid for gov­ernor an­oth­er time.

Still, his name will be on the bal­lot in the primary on May 14, 2014. He is run­ning for lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor.

Back in Feb­ru­ary, asked if he was ac­tu­ally jock­ey­ing for the second spot on the tick­et, he told the Times, “I’m not run­ning for lieu­ten­ant any­thing.”

However, he had a change of heart.

“Lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor is the right of­fice at the right time,” he said.

Oth­er Demo­crats run­ning for lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor in­clude former con­gress­man Mark Critz, Brad­ford County Com­mis­sion­er Mark Smith and Har­ris­burg City Coun­cil­man Brad Kopl­in­ski.

The Phil­adelphia Demo­crat­ic City Com­mit­tee has en­dorsed Stack, and he ex­pects to en­joy uni­on and busi­ness back­ing and raise enough money to spread his mes­sage.

“I will have broad-based sup­port,” he said.

Stack de­scribes Critz as a “nice guy,” but said he settled on the lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor’s race, in part, be­cause of the former con­gress­man’s stance on gun con­trol.

As a cap­tain in the Army Na­tion­al Guard, Stack be­lieves he’ll have cred­ib­il­ity with voters when he pro­poses gun-safety meas­ures.

“He’s out of touch with the main­stream of Pennsylvania voters. He’s the wrong man for this job,” Stack said of Critz, who was en­dorsed by the NRA in his un­suc­cess­ful 2012 re-elec­tion cam­paign, a rare nod to a Demo­crat by the gun-rights group. “He’s from John­stown. I’m from North­east Phil­adelphia. But I think a lot of people from Pitt­s­burgh, Al­legheny County and oth­er parts of the state agree with me on san­ity with guns.”

Stack has not en­dorsed a can­did­ate for gov­ernor. Corbett hails from Al­legheny County, and his lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor is Jim Caw­ley, a former Bucks County com­mis­sion­er, giv­ing the Re­pub­lic­ans a bal­anced geo­graph­ic­al tick­et.

In Stack’s view, it’s not a pre­requis­ite to have can­did­ates run­ning on a tick­et from op­pos­ite ends of the state. In fact, he thinks the Demo­crat­ic tick­et could be strengthened if he were to be paired with a sub­urb­an­ite such as Schwartz, Mc­Cord or Mc­Ginty, since turnout in south­east­ern Pennsylvania could see a boost with fa­mil­i­ar names on the bal­lot.

As for the primary for lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor, Stack sees an ad­vant­age in be­ing the only Phil­adelphia-area can­did­ate.

“Most of the Demo­crat­ic voters in the primary are from south­east­ern Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’s like over 60 per­cent.”

Be­ing from the Phil­adelphia area doesn’t guar­an­tee vic­tory in a re­l­at­ively low-pro­file race such as lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor. Just ask Jonath­an Saidel, a Bustleton res­id­ent and former city con­trol­ler who ran for the job in 2010. He even raised a lot of money and had the en­dorse­ment of the Demo­crat­ic State Com­mit­tee.

However, Saidel had to share his geo­graph­ic­al base with former Com­mon­wealth Court Judge Dor­is Smith-Rib­n­er. A little-known state rep­res­ent­at­ive from Centre County, Scott Conk­lin, won votes in the rest of the state and cap­tured the nom­in­a­tion.

Stack sees the races for gov­ernor/lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor be­ing com­pet­it­ive ones come Novem­ber.

“It seems like it’s the Demo­crats’ race to lose, but Pennsylvania is a battle­ground-type state,” he said.

As for oth­er is­sues, Stack wants to help cre­ate fam­ily-sus­tain­ing jobs and gen­er­ally sup­port “the little guy” over “the big shot.”

The law­maker blames Corbett and Caw­ley for the delay in passing a bill to fund mass trans­it and im­prove­ments to roads and bridges.

Pennsylvania should be a state, he said, where young people can get a good edu­ca­tion, find a place to work and raise a fam­ily. He wants to find a way to make col­lege edu­ca­tion tu­ition cheap­er at in-state col­leges so stu­dents and their par­ents don’t go in­to bank­ruptcy.

If elec­ted, Stack thinks he’d have the re­spect and cred­ib­il­ity among Sen­ate and House Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans to help pass the gov­ernor’s agenda.

Stack also wants to re­store a ver­sion of the state’s former adult­Basic health in­sur­ance pro­gram for the work­ing poor. Some 70 per­cent of adult­Basic en­rollees were wo­men be­fore it was scrapped in 2011.

“I want to con­tin­ue to fight for wo­men’s health is­sues,” Stack said.

Stack is look­ing for­ward to meet­ing voters across Pennsylvania.

“It should be a fun cam­paign,” he said. ••

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