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MEMO: A Clear Choice in Pennsylvania’s Race for Governor

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TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Jared Leopold, DGA
RE: A Clear Choice in Pennsylvania’s Race for Governor
The Pennsylvania gubernatorial race is a study in contrasts: a steady leader working to change Harrisburg vs. an extreme, Trump-loving, Harrisburg swamp creature.
On one side, you have Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, a man who is running on a solid record of improving education, widening access to health care, and fighting the gridlock in Harrisburg. Wolf enters the general with a unified party behind him, a record of accomplishment, and a well-funded campaign ready to spread his message across Pennsylvania.
And then there’s Republican Scott Wagner. Wagner is a self-styled “dollar general Donald Trump” who unfortunately shares many of the president’s worst qualities – including an infamously short temper –which has produced a lot of unwanted baggage. He is a big fan of Trump, and more importantly, his damaging agenda.
Wagner spent the last year battling his way through one of the nastiest and most expensive primaries in the entire country. Republicans spent more than $20 million on brutal ad campaigns that didn’t pull any punches. Pennsylvanians had a front row seat as Wagner and his opponents revealed themselves to be far-right ideologues well outside the mainstream of the state. Wagner barely made it out of the primary and heads into the general election with depleted resources and an extreme platform.
The contrast could not be clearer. Governor Wolf has been a leader in bringing change to Harrisburg. Scott Wagner represents the worst of today’s politics. Pennsylvanians have an easy choice in November.
Governor Tom Wolf: Popular, Pragmatic, Making Progress for Pennsylvania
Governor Wolf has much to be proud of in his first term as governor.
Wolf came into office and successfully worked to restore the $1 billion funding cuts his predecessor made to public education. The Corbett administration’s cuts led to mass teacher layoffs, ballooning class sizes, and the elimination of key programs in schools around the state. Governor Wolf has recommitted the state to supporting its students and teachers, preparing the next generation for the jobs of the 21st Century.
The governor is also responsible for the successful Medicaid expansion. Since implementing the program in February of 2015, 720,000 more Pennsylvanians now have health care coverage. Not only do more people in the state have access to health insurance, the expansion injected millions into the economy and created thousands of good-paying jobs.
Governor Wolf is also a national model of how Democratic governors can lead the way to unrig gerrymandered maps. Earlier this year, the governor put a stop to a Republican gerrymandering scheme and ensured that Pennsylvania gets fairer maps going forward.
Wolf has also been willing to stand up to both Harrisburg and Washington D.C. He vetoed a controversial bill pushed through the legislature to restrict a woman’s right to choose, sued the Trump administration for its attacks on environmental protections, and was a leading voice in the national debate on the GOP health care bill last year.
Pennsylvanians clearly approve of the job the governor is doing. Polling this year shows Wolf enjoys a +11 approval rating that has been trending upwards. He has a very comfortable lead in hypothetical matchups against all his potential Republican opponents.
Scott Wagner: Pennsylvania’s Very Own Donald Trump
When it comes to Scott Wagner’s resemblance to Donald Trump, no one puts it better than Wagner himself: Actually Donald Trump is a Mini-Scott Wagner.” 
Wagner brags about his early support for Trump and has vowed to bring his policies to Pennsylvania.
It would take a long time to list all of their similarities but here’s a quick sample of the many times Wagner’s Trumpian streak has shown itself:

  • Wagner was caught on camera physically attacking a campaign tracker. Police were called to the scene to investigate.
  • He showed a bizarre contempt for scientific fact when he attributed climate change to heat coming off “warm bodies” and claimed Earth is getting closer to the sun.
  • During a campaign event, Wagner went on a tirade against George Soros, making sure to call him a “Hungarian Jew” with a “hatred for America.”
  • A key part of his stump speech involves the line “I want to make Pennsylvania greater again.”  He also tells stories of buying 20,000 Trump lawn signs during the 2016 campaign.
  • He supports the Trump travel ban and calls the Russia investigation “a lot of propaganda.”
  • He is  very friendly with Steve Bannon and said “we had a lot of issues in common.”

Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians, Wagner’s platform is an even bigger problem than his temperament. In nearly every area that Governor Wolf has made progress, Scott Wagner has wanted to reverse it. Wagner recently came out in favor of the same abortion law that was just passed in Iowa and is the most restrictive in the entire country. He has also declared war on protections for working Pennsylvanians by supporting so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation. Beyond that, Wagner was in favor of slashing education funding under Corbett, and we saw how badly that turned out. And he repeatedly campaigned on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
But there’s one way Wagner is different than Trump. In his time as state senator, Wagner has become the “ultimate insider” in Harrisburg, and a major contributor the gridlock and political dealing that Pennsylvanians are fed up with. Wagner was caught secretly organizing an obstruction of Governor Wolf’s agenda with the deliberate goal of harming his reelection odds. There’s a reason he was the “hand-picked candidate” of the Republican Party establishment.
One Ugly Primary
The Republican primary will be remembered as one of the ugliest in the state’s history. Wagner and his opponents spent more than $20, mostly on ads that often crossed the line from politics to personal.
Here’s how Philly Inquirer columnist John Baer described it:

Hard to say exactly what to call the Republican primary race for governor. But the words nasty, vacuous and damaging to democracy come to mind. It also strikes me as a campaign in a counterintuitive moment. As the rest of the world shows surging interest in public affairs with increased numbers of candidates at all levels and hard evidence of efforts to make politics better, Pennsylvania offers up an old-time race of noxious noise.

And no one suffered from that noxious noise more than Wagner. He was the target of one of the most personal and damaging political ads in recent history. Just look at how his opponent Paul Mango portrayed him in his ad:

“Slumlord Wagner”

“Sleezy Bail Bondsman Wagner”

“Toxic Wagner”

“Greedy Wagner”

And most notably, “Deadbeat Dad Wagner”

It’s no wonder that, even with the backing of the state party, Wagner barely made it out of the primary. He heads into the general election with a significant disadvantage in resources, and a severely battered reputation.
Wagner is going to have a hard time appealing to Pennsylvania voters after such an off-putting primary race.
Pennsylvanians have an easy choice to make this November. With Tom Wolf, they can expect four more years of steady leadership that will continue to shake up things in Harrisburg. Schools will remain funded, access to health care will be protected, and working families will have an ally in the executive office. With Scott Wagner, it’s the exact opposite. Wagner showed his true extreme colors in this primary and it was not pretty.
Pennsylvanians will reject Trump’s best friend in Harrisburg, and choose four more years of progress under Governor Wolf.