For candidates vying to be the governor’s No. 2, denying one’s own policy platform is part of the process.
Mike Stack, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, said Monday he’ll march in lockstep with his de facto running mate, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and York County businessman Tom Wolf.
There isn’t much daylight between the priorities of Mike Stack and Tom Wolf. Even so, Stack is distancing himself from prior votes and campaign stances during his four terms as a state senator representing Philadelphia.
“Tom Wolf and I are in sync. His agenda is my agenda. What he wants for this commonwealth is what I want,” said Stack during a speech to the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg, a monthly gathering of reporters, officials, operatives, and lobbyists. “When it comes to matters of public policy, there’s going to be one voice in the executive branch, and I will do all I can to make sure that voice is heard loud and clear.”
“That’s not unusual,” said Terry Madonna, pollster and professor of political science at Franklin & Marshall College. “They adopt the position of the candidate … that’s simply the way it works. Otherwise, you get relegated to the pasture.”
The role of lieutenant governor has a few duties prescribed in the state constitution and state law. Presiding over the state Senate and the Board of Pardons are the office’s main roles. Additional responsibilities are left up to the governor’s discretion.
Lieutenant governors who don’t take on the central office’s agenda can be marginalized (or, as Madonna put it, “banished to the netherworld”).
But singing from the same hymnal has its advantages on the campaign trail.
“You can’t have a lieutenant governor candidate saying different things than the candidate for governor,” Madonna said. “Those differences will be a huge distraction and a potential problem for any campaign.”
Stack’s own political platform differed from Wolf’s only slightly. As a candidate in the Democratic primary, Stack called for a 10 percent tax on natural gas drillers, while Wolf proposed just a five percent levy.
But perhaps Stack was unsure about the best tax rate. Earlier this year, he proposed legislation to enact a drilling tax of five percent.
On Monday, Stack said he agrees with Wolf’s proposal to restructure the state’s tax policies, aiming to increase income taxes for wealthy Pennsylvanians in order to get school districts to ratchet down property taxes.
“I don’t think Tom Wolf is just trying to say, stick it to wealthy people,” Stack said. “I think we’re trying to find a way to come up with a tax system that is more equal.”
Stack touted other items of Wolf’s agenda, including expanding Medicaid and raising the state’s federally mandated $7.25 minimum wage.
Stack faces incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley in the November election. But his effective running mate this fall is Wolf, who led a recent poll by 20 points.
“It’s easy to come to the conclusion that I’m one of the most fortunate people in politics to have my fate tied to his success,” said Stack.