The Koch Brothers are passing on trying to unseat U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D. PA) but they are now making a late entrance into the Pennsylvania Governor’s race:
In its first major move in support of a candidate in Pennsylvania this cycle, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity announced Thursday it will support Scott Wagner in his campaign to unseat Gov. Tom Wolf this November.
The self-proclaimed grassroots free-market advocacy group, deeply entrenched in conservative politics, will canvass, make phone calls and run paid advertisements backing the Republican nominee and state senator, while highlighting Mr. Wolf's “failed policy record” as a Democratic incumbent governor, according to a release.
In a statement, Beth Anne Mumford, the group's Pennsylvania director, said Mr. Wagner's record “reflects strong leadership on causes our activists champion.” The Republican has based much of his campaign on making Pennsylvania more friendly to businesses, while Americans for Prosperity fights for lowering taxes and restraining the influence government has over the economy — ideas, Ms. Mumford said, that Mr. Wolf has failed to abide by in his first term as governor.
“Wolf’s lack of leadership has instead left the Commonwealth with a legacy of bigger government, higher taxes, and runaway spending that consistently stifles economic dynamism and prioritizes Harrisburg’s interests over those of everyday Pennsylvanians,” Ms. Mumford said.
“These big oil and gas barons are trying to buy the election for Scott Wagner so he can continue to give handouts to billionaires like the Kochs by blocking a severance tax and refusing to make big corporations pay their fair share,” campaign spokeswoman Beth Melena said.
With three field offices in the state and half a dozen paid staffers, Americans for Prosperity hopes to replicate the success it had in 2016 when it spent more than $1 million helping defeat Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee Katie McGinty, who lost to incumbent Republican Pat Toomey in what ended up being the most expensive Senate race in the country. During that effort, volunteers knocked on more than 135,000 doors and made 2.4 million phone calls.
The group did not signal how much it would spend in support of Wagner, but with 13 weeks left until the election, but it said dozens of volunteers will deploy from AFP offices in the Erie, Harrisburg and Philadelphia areas to canvass for him.
Wagner “is pleased to have the support of an organization committed to promoting business friendly policies and fostering economic growth,” campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said Thursday. He said Wolf “is bought and paid for by the public sector unions,” which kill reforms.
A co-sign from Americans for Prosperity could send a jolt of energy into Wagner's fundraising, which has lacked the support of some key establishment Republicans in Pennsylvania. As of June 4, Wagner had $1.6 million on hand, trailing the incumbent by a factor of nearly 10-1.
Wagner badly needs the financial backing, especially since Wolf has already hit the airwaves ripping Wagner a new one:
Wolf’s ad entitled, “Book”, is a direct response to Wagner’s ad attacking Wolf’s education plan named “drastic”.
“Governor restored the education cuts, reduced standardizing testing, and increased skills and apprenticeship training,” the ad claims after criticizing Wagner’s plan.
“Governor Wolf has always been a strong advocate for public education, which is why he has fully restored the Harrisburg Republicans’ one billion dollar cut from education, the majority of which came from rural and small-town schools,” said Beth Melena, Gov. Wolf’s campaign communications director. “Governor Wolf will continue to fight to increase funding for all schools throughout Pennsylvania.”
The Wolf campaign also released an additional attack ad this week highlighting Wagner’s view on senior citizens. The ad claims Wagner has called them the “greediest generation ever”.
“He wants to change the law and tax senior retirement income for the first time in Pennsylvania history,” the ad states about Wagner.
“Scott Wagner wants to roll back Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion which would result in seniors not being able to afford their nursing home care,” said Melena. “Wagner was also the only senator in the Pennsylvania Senate not to vote to reduce seniors’ prescription drug costs. Scott Wagner would be dangerous for Pennsylvania’s seniors.”
The Wolf campaign boasted about his efforts to keep seniors in their homes, stabilize the lottery fund and boosting Medicare Advantage.
At a town-hall meeting earlier this month, an 18-year-old environmental activist and student at the University of California was called “young and naive” by Republican candidate for governor Scott Wagner after the activist, Rose Strauss, asked Wagner about his views on climate change.
“My name is Rose, I'm 18, and I'm really concerned about the future of our country,” she says at the mic. “Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians think climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed, and you've said that climate change is a result of people's body heat and are refusing to take action on the issue.”
She goes on: “Does this have anything to do with the $200,000 you have taken from the fossil fuel industry?”
To which Wagner responds, “You're 18 years old. You know, you're a little young and naive.”
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