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. ••