Why has state Sen. Mike Stack made recent trips to western Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley and even held baby pigs at the Farm Show in Harrisburg?
Stack (D-5th dist.) is mulling a bid for governor in 2014, and wants to show political and labor leaders and everyday citizens that a “city slicker” shares their values and concerns.
“A lot more has to be done in this state,” he said. “We’re clearly going in the wrong direction. We have to get the state back on track.”
Stack isn’t the only local lawmaker said to be mulling a run for governor.
At last weekend’s Democratic State Committee meeting in Hershey, there was all kinds of buzz about U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13th dist.) considering the race.
Schwartz wasn’t even at the meeting, but she has more than $3 million in her congressional campaign account, which she can transfer to a run for governor.
Rachel Magnuson, the congresswoman’s chief of staff, said Schwartz was “very seriously” contemplating a run.
Still, the 64-year-old congresswoman is busy with other duties. She is finance chairwoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and sits on the House Budget and Ways and Means committees.
Many observers expect Schwartz to wait to challenge Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016.
Magnuson did not know a timetable for a decision and declined to predict whether her boss would indeed run for governor.
Stack, 49, is a lawyer who was elected to the Senate in 2000, ousting Republican incumbent Hank Salvatore. The outcome was a bit of an upset, as Stack had lost twice previously to Salvatore and failed in a bid to win an at-large City Council seat in 1999.
After the initial victory, Stack won easy re-election campaigns in 2004, ’08 and ’12.
If he runs for governor next year, he won’t have to give up his Senate seat because the term doesn’t expire until 2016.
Stack discounted talk that he is actually pursuing the job of lieutenant governor.
“I’m not running for lieutenant anything,” he said.
A Somerton resident, Stack is Democratic leader of the 58th Ward. He has tried to move into Senate Democratic leadership, but has lost bids for minority leader and appropriations chairman.
Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, .is expected to seek a second term next year. His poll numbers aren’t too impressive these days, but Stack notes that former Govs. Ed Rendell and Tom Ridge had similar woes during their first terms, so he knows it won’t be easy to topple the incumbent.
“I welcome challenges,” he said.
Two Democrats have announced campaigns: John Hanger, former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, and Max Myers, a pastor, businessman and author from Cumberland County.
Other Democrats said to be interested in the race include former congressman Joe Sestak, of Delaware County; State Treasurer Rob McCord, of Montgomery County; and Tom Wolf, former secretary of the state Department of Revenue.
Stack said he has told people he’s met across Pennsylvania that he wants to make the state a better place to live and provide economic security.
“I’ve had a very positive reaction,” he said.
One issue at or near the top of Stack’s agenda is increased funding for public education.
“We’re not investing in our future,” he said.
The state and national unemployment rates have been hovering around 8 percent, and Stack sees that as too high.
Now is not a good time, he said, to be talking about privatizing the Pennsylvania Lottery and liquor stores.
“You’re cutting jobs of hard-working folks,” he said, adding that both agencies have good track records.
In Stack’s opinion, it is “outrageous” that Corbett wants to have a British-based firm run the Lottery. If it has to be privatized, Stack favors a Pennsylvania company as manager.
Stack has no set timetable for a final decision on the race for governor, but hopes party leaders and voters find his profile attractive. That profile includes being from the voter-rich southeastern part of the state, which is especially crucial in Democratic primaries.
“This is the region that delivers the votes statewide,” he said. ••