On Politics: Wagner returning to Luzerne County as gubernatorial race heats up

By Roger DuPuis - [email protected]

Monday morning. Rain. Back to work.

Bill O’Boyle, reading through his emails, pauses and says to me, matter-of-factly, “Scott Wagner is coming back this week.”

“He was just here. Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

Yes indeed, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who outlined his economic vision during a Mountain Top campaign stop just last Thursday, will be appearing at a rally style event at the Woodlands in Plains Township, 6:30 p.m. this Wednesday.

With such a white hot focus on midterm Congressional races, Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial contest seems to be getting a little lost amid all the shouting.

I think many could be forgiven if the only big recent headline they really remember thus far is the news that Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek will moderate the first debate between Republican challenger Wagner and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Oct. 1.

But the war has begun, make no mistake.

Wolf was here for a rally a few weeks back, and Wagner’s return to our battleground county is a reminder of just how intense it’s about to get, and how important we remain as a bellwether and as a prize for any candidate looking to win in a statewide race.

The Wolf campaign has been busy with direct mailings and commercials, as Wolf touts his support for public school funding, paring back business regulations and fighting gerrymandering, for example.

In this battle between two York County businessmen — Wolf and Wagner both hail from Southcentral Pennsylvania — their finances are also in the spotlight, with some echoes of the 2016 presidential contest.

Wolf last week made his two-page 1040 form public and allowed an Associated Press reporter to review the rest of his 102-page federal tax return in a campaign office, following rules he set in 2014 when he was running for a first term.

Wolf reported $266,000 in cash gifts to charity — which includes his salary, according to records provided by Wolf’s campaign to the AP.

Wagner has declined to release his tax return, drawing the ire of the hometown York Dispatch, which published an Aug. 30 editorial stating that the law might not require Wagner to do so, but transparency for voters certainly does.

Whether that call for openness will be heeded — or accepted by voters — remains to be seen.

Wagner, a state senator who has become wealthy running a waste-haulage firm, has been travelling the state emphasizing a message of lower taxes, fewer regulations and pro-growth policies overall, reminding business owners that he understands their needs and challenges.

But he has also gone on the offensive, arguing that Wolf has been partial to urban areas at the expense of rural Pennsylvania, blasting Wolf recently for visiting hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but not doing enough for areas of this state recently hit by storms.

And Wagner, who has been backed by President Trump, followed the Donald’s lead and came up with a nickname for his opponent: Shady Tom, which is the name of a website filled with Wagner’s arguments against re-electing Wolf.

Don’t think Wolf is sitting still. His campaign’s YouTube page is filled with videos reminding voters that Wagner is a very wealthy man who has “stood up for the big guys.”

The latest RealClear Politics tally of public opinion polls shows Wolf with an average lead of 15 percent over Wagner, but conservative polling last month suggested a mere 3 percent lead for Wolf.

The only poll that matters, of course, is on Election Day. Expect to see both of these men in Luzerne County a few more times before that rolls around.

By Roger DuPuis

[email protected]