Wagner-Bartos Blitz Pennsylvania’s Sunday Show Circuit
Yesterday, 2018 gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner and his running mate Jeff Bartos (Wagner’s first and only choice for the position) hit Pennsylvania’s Sunday political talk show circuit for their first television interviews since each of them received the Republican Party of Pennsylvania’s endorsement. Wagner and Bartos appeared together on “Pennsylvania Newsmakers” and “Face the State,” where they discussed their decision to form a ticket, their agenda to change the status quo in Pennsylvania, and how the campaign has come together thus far. Wagner also appeared on “This Week in Pennsylvania,” where he talked about earning the Republican party’s endorsement and the case against Tom Wolf.
Full videos and transcripts for all three interviews can be found below.
Watch Scott Wagner’s interview on “This Week in Pennsylvania” HERE.
DENNIS OWENS: We’re joined now with Republican State Senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner. Welcome, and thanks for being with us.
SCOTT WAGNER: Happy to be here, Dennis.
OWENS: Is there wind in your sails given that you just got the endorsement of the statewide Republican party and Republicans across the state?
WAGNER: Well I think for our campaign it was an accomplishment. I’ve really been around the state for four years. I started travelling around the state after I won my write-in campaign in 2014 and then chairing the Senate Republican Campaign Committee for the 2015-2016 year, and then announcing last year spending my time around the state, so yeah, we’ve built a lot of relationships over the last four years, and it is an accomplishment.
OWENS: Bill Clinton said famously once that Democrats want to fall in love, Republicans want to fall in line. Now that you have got the endorsement of the statewide Republican party do you feel that Republicans will fall in line and get behind your candidacy?
WAGNER: Well, listen, there’s some Republicans that don’t like my style and they just haven’t warmed up to me. But listen, this is about the issues of Pennsylvania. My campaign is very different, Dennis. The issues in Pennsylvania are not specific to a single party. I’ll give the heroin, opioid crisis – that’s not a Democrat problem, it’s not a Republican problem, it’s everybody’s problem and it will be my job to solve and work through these issues with everyone so that we have results for a change.
OWENS: Right before you got the endorsement from the statewide Republicans Speaker of the House Mike Turzai dropped out of the race. Does that surprise you and what’s your reaction to that?
WAGNER: Well, Speaker Turzai came into the race late and I think he realized that they probably had a disadvantage. But Speaker Turzai also has a large number of members of his caucus that are up for reelection and I think he stepped back and he’s more focused now on the reelection of his caucus members and there’s also a large number that are – well number one, the House of Representatives completely Democrat and Republican are all up for reelection, but there are a lot that are retiring and leaving.
OWENS: There are still two Republicans in the race, Laura Ellsworth and Paul Mango, both from Western Pennsylvania, now that you got the endorsement do you feel like you are past that challenge? You tell me, how do you assess this race?
WAGNER: Well, no, I would never assume that I’m past that challenge. Listen, our goal, Jeff Bartos and I have a job of selling Pennsylvanians and the voters of Pennsylvania, Democrat, Republican and independent, that we possess the leadership skills, we have the experience, we understand the issues and we are going to be results oriented governor and lieutenant governor.
OWENS: You just mentioned Jeff Bartos. Interesting that you’ve selected a running mate and now Paul Mango has selected a running mate as well. You do understand that the Constitution calls for separate elections, right? That in the primary you could say that you are running with Bill Gates, but the fact is voters of Pennsylvania have to go to the ballot box and they are two separate elections in the primary.
OWENS: So what’s the point of having a quote unquote running mate?
WAGNER: Well, listen, the issues that have to be solved in Pennsylvania are monumental and massive. And in the private sector I don’t have my team picked for me, I pick my team. And I got to know Jeff over the last year, he’s a very capable young man, and there’s twenty years difference – I’m 62 Jeff’s 42. He has private sector experience, he also has a legal background, I was drawn to someone that I believe could help me as the governor solve problems here in Pennsylvania, not just be someone who sits in the lieutenant governor’s office.
OWENS: So it’s not an attempt on your part to kind of confuse anybody, that you’re running as a team in the primary, because that’s not really the way it works. You’re just saying, he’s the guy I’d like you to pick. I would like you to vote for me and I would like you to vote for him, is that kind of what you are saying?
WAGNER: Correct. We have to sell to the voters that Jeff and I are the team that will get things done in Pennsylvania.
OWENS: And welcome back to this week in Pennsylvania, continuing our conversation with State Senator gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner, thanks again for being with us. We have our analysts with us – Chris Nicholas, Eagle Consulting and Abe Amoros, Laborers International Union of North America – LIUNA. So you’ve got to make the case to Pennsylvania voters that Tom Wolf shouldn’t get a second term, and the fact of the matter is, other than Tom Corbett, Pennsylvanians have always sent a governor back to a second term since they have been allowed to do that. So what is that case?
WAGNER: I think the voters, Dennis, have to look at the results over the last three years. Now we are in Tom Wolf’s fourth year, Governor Wolf has not signed a budget for three years, he has not been involved in the budget, he put us into a very serious budget crisis back in 2015 and as a result a budget that he rejected in July of 2015 became law, that same budget, nine months later. Governor Wolf has come behind issues he has not been in front of the issues. Listen, Governor Wolf just got involved in the opioid heroin crisis, the biggest crisis that we have nationwide and in this state. But in 2014, I along with our Assistant District Attorney, Dave Sunday, who is now our District Attorney in York, and our coroner, we formed the York County Heroin Task Force. We took action in 2014, Tom Wolf just started on this recently.
OWENS: Does the average voter, and I’ll ask you this, Abe, does the average voter care that he hasn’t technically signed a budget? He’s going to look at – we have got beer and wine in grocery stores, we’ve got some, I put quotation marks on some pension reform, though not good enough for a lot of folks – there are some accomplishments for this governor. Is it a tough sell for him to say to voters, we need to reject Tom Wolf?
ABE AMOROS: I think it might be because there is not enough there in terms of making the electorate angry at Governor Wolf. I mean he’s likeable, he’s trying, he’s doing the very best that he can given the fact that he has a Republican controlled state legislature. The Senate and the House of Representatives have major majorities in terms of Republicans.
OWENS: Chris, you do campaigns, is it an uphill fight to topple the Governor?
CHRIS NICHOLAS: It’s always an uphill fight to topple any incumbent regardless of their name, or their party, or their office. But this governor’s race to me is a microcosm of the state. The farther you get away from the Philadelphia region, the less popular Tom Wolf is. So it’s basically going to be that 40 percent of the state versus the rest. The folks down there, they tend to be more Democratic, more left of center, they generally like the Governor. You get farther away, they don’t like him. That doesn’t mean they necessarily know Senator Wagner, but they are predisposed to say, let’s start over.
OWENS: Scott, do you agree with that analysis?
WAGNER: Well, Dennis I’ve been travelling heavily into Philadelphia. I’ve been in the urban neighborhoods. In September I travelled into the 16th Ward of Philadelphia – highest level of poverty, guns, shootings, drugs – right across the street from Temple. And you know I walked around with members of that community and other community activists, Democrats and Republicans, and finally the Democrats are saying and they are listening to some Republicans, and these are not my words, this person looked down and said, look, look at all this poverty, this is what the Democrats have given you. You continue to vote every year, they tell you who to vote for, they show up, they buy you a meal, and the day after the election they don’t remember who you are. That is something I’m hearing a lot more in Philadelphia and at the end of the day there’s an opportunity for something different.
OWENS: I recently got an email, and the email said, Dennis, because they know I run into you from time to time, is Scott Wagner as angry as he comes across? How would you answer that? You mentioned in the first segment that some people don’t like your style, how would you answer that viewer?
WAGNER: Well, Dennis, I’m an honest, open person. And a lot of times when I have met you and other reporters in the Capitol, you come up to me quick and you want a quick interview and I’m in the middle of something – but at the end of the day I did not get to where I am today by being an angry person. I’ve built several companies from two employees to hundreds of employees and I’m in different partnerships in other business interests and there is a style – I want to get things done and I tend to become impatient when all I get is lip service, and there’s a lot of lip service in Harrisburg and it comes from everybody.
Watch the ticket’s interview on “Pennsylvania Newsmakers” HERE.
TERRY MADONNA: Welcome back to the program, well, Senator Wagner joins me as well as Mr. Bartos. And the other candidates for governor are invited as always is the case. Every governor of the state has a standing invitation, so Senator, should you become governor of the commonwealth, you have a standing invitation. We’d love to have the governors on. Senator let’s – we cannot avoid and we should not avoid talking about what is huge news, that is the sad and sorrowful situation that occurred in Broward County in South Florida. As you know, with your experience, this can happen anywhere.
SCOTT WAGNER: It’s a tragedy.
MADONNA: What should be done? What should government do?
WAGNER: Well, Terry I think the deeper issue is the mental health issue in this country. The shooter was a former student and had issues in the school, the little that I’ve read about the incident. And if you go back and look at a lot of the past tragedies that have happened, there has been mental health issues. Some of the shooters were bullied at that point in their life and it’s a big problem and we have to get our arms around it. So, really, we have to go back to the root of the problem, and it’s the mental health issue, the bullying issue and it’s tragic.
MADONNA: Great point
WAGNER: And it’s sad.
MADONNA: I think we also need a concerted effort by government in the private sector, Mr. Bartos, to get our handle around it. And every time you look at these videos that these young kids are watching I’m horrified, and soon killing becomes – take it.
JEFF BARTOS: So I have two teenage daughters. They are not video game aficionados, it’s not what they do. They are both athletes and play instruments, but they have friends who play a lot of video games. And you are absolutely right, there’s so much desensitization and you become desensitized to violence when you see this day after day in games where they’re so real, the games are so real, the graphics are so real that it becomes nothing to switch from the play life to the real life and I think that goes to what Scott is saying about the mental health. I think we also need to talk about security in schools.
MADONNA: All right, Senator, I have got to start with an important question – Scott Wagner gets to be governor of the commonwealth, what are the first three things you would put on your agenda, not just on your agenda, but you would do by executive action if you can do it that way, or with the Pennsylvania legislature? What would you do?
WAGNER: Well, Terry there are three issues that are on my radar screen and they are not in any specific order and one may tie into another. Number one, we have to get control of our finances in the state of Pennsylvania. We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending and mismanagement problem. I’ve served in the Pennsylvania State Senate for four years. This, starting next week, will be my fourth year serving on the Appropriations Committee and I ask a lot of questions that I would ask as a private sector business guy and I don’t get answers. I see a lot of secrecy, I see a lot of manipulation with the budget, and we have to get our arms around that budget. And I believe, and what I will do as governor is I will go to zero-based budgeting in the state of Pennsylvania. Eighty percent of Pennsylvania households are doing it at their kitchen tables – they look at their revenue or their income and they look at their expenses. I believe that in the first year, if we do zero-based budgeting, that we will probably find somewhere between $1.5 billion and $4 billion. So then the next large item – and this I think is probably just as big as the budget side – is our education system. We have over 200,000 skilled labor positions that are open, and people keep talking about bringing more jobs to Pennsylvania, well we have 200,000 skilled labor positions that we can’t fill right now because we don’t have the people. And I think we should focus on that first, that should be our priority –
MADONNA: Does that mean that – one of the complaints we hear is that there is not enough training, vocational training, skilled training thought ought to go on particularly in small towns in rural America and also in, let’s put it this way, urban Pennsylvania. So are you talking about training, and I won’t say retraining, but literally training our workforce for the jobs in modern society?
WAGNER: Well I’m going to use the term retool and reinvent our education system. We go into the schools and talk to children about their careers in 10th, 11th and 12th grade. We should be going into the schools and talking about careers at 4th, 5th and 6th grade. And there is a couple things that would happen there. I learned recently that the Allentown School District has a 30-35 percent dropout rate, which is just staggering to me. And then my brain goes on to this question, well how many of the 30-35 percent of the dropout students in the Allentown schools end up in the criminal justice system? But if we started the conversation in 4th, 5th and 6th grade there is a very large potential that we could catch those students before they drop out, which is a very big deal. And that maybe solves a little bit of the criminal justice situation. But listen, there’s nothing wrong with being a plumber or an electrician. Today’s society has parents not wanting their children to go into the trades, they want them to go to college. And if you go into the public schools, the guidance counselors in 10th, 11th and 12th grade are pushing the students to college and then on top of it the students are coming out with unbelievable amounts of student debt and they can’t find jobs.
MADONNA: Welcome back, well my special guest this week is State Senator Scott Wagner, he’s the Republican endorsed candidate for governor. And I’m looking across at Jeff Bartos, he’s in the real estate business. All right, here’s the question. This is a highly unusual situation you two have put together, where a candidate for governor is endorsed and you are running as a team to be lieutenant governor, that’s pretty unusual. We do know you run separately, voters get a chance to vote separately. But here is what matters – lieutenant governors play a role only if the governor really lets them –
BARTOS: That’s right.
MADONNA: And so we’ve had lieutenant governors that have had an energy portfolio, they have had PEMA, Pennsylvania Emergency Management, some have had nothing, they might as well have been doing – having another part-time job. What do you want to do if you guys get elected? What do you want to ask him that you want to do?
BARTOS: Well when Scott first asked me to consider running for lieutenant governor on his team as part of a ticket, and as you said Terry, it’s never been done before in Pennsylvania to our knowledge where people teamed up this early, I was struck by Scott’s vision and by his leadership. And he recognized the dysfunction that exists today in our executive branch here in Pennsylvania where the governor and the lieutenant governor don’t speak to one another, they don’t have a relationship.
MADONNA: Well that’s not always been the case in all fairness –
BARTOS: But today they don’t –
MADONNA: But now I think that’s a fair statement –
BARTOS: So Scott and I initially bonded and continued to campaign together on a really simple premise, which is we both grew up in Pennsylvania, we both raised our families in Pennsylvania, we want our children and grandchildren to choose to be in Pennsylvania. And the way we create that dynamic environment where young people want to come here, people want to start their businesses here, is we focus on economic growth.
MADONNA: So the short answer is you want to be involved somehow in economic development, right?
BARTOS: Economic development and economic growth. I mean Pennsylvania, and I’ll put this out there and we could have an interesting conversation about it, Pennsylvania can be the fastest growing, most dynamic state in the country. We need the right leadership in the executive branch and we need the right culture –
MADONNA: So that would be your focus?
BARTOS: That would be my focus.
MADONNA: All right, Senator, back to you. Let’s go to two other important items that you would pursue if elected.
WAGNER: The third item, Terry, that I’ve heard about for four years all over Pennsylvania are the school property taxes on real estate, and we have to solve that issue, but it’s complex. The number one reason that school taxes have skyrocketed is because we have a pension crisis. In 2016, which was one of the best years in the stock market we’ve probably seen in probably 15 or 20 years, we allowed PSER’s money managers to deliver a return of 1.29 percent and the benchmark was 7.5.
MADONNA: Well let me stop you here. There’s $11 billion, $12 billion in property taxes out there that principally the schools really heavily rely on. If you want to do something about that, if you want to eliminate that, and a lot of people do, and hypothetically that sounds nice, but you are talking about a huge jump in one of the other big state taxes such as income and sales, and that’s not popular even though the property tax, as you know, is the most unpopular tax. How do you handle the fact that getting lawmaker to vote for a big hike in the income or sales tax gets difficult?
WAGNER: There’s a first step. Number one, the first step is to go to zero-based budgeting and find out what available money is available that we don’t have to tax something or raise something. Number two, we absolutely have to get the pension returns where they belong and even greater. I mean, listen Terry, three third graders could have done a better job. Three third graders could have done probably 12 to 15 percent in 2016. I mean, I’m serious. There is a Penn State class up in Erie that has an investment club and their return in 2016 was almost 17 percent.
MADONNA: Before we run out of time – there are people who have gotten on you for your style. Let’s be honest, how do you, do you just ignore that?
WAGNER: Terry, I’m going to be honest and I’m going to tell the truth. Listen, I have a great career, I have several companies, I’m doing this because now that I’ve been in the Senate for four years and I’ve travelled around the state and I see the issues, these issues are solvable, but there’s four things that are needed. You need a strong leader. I’ve built companies from scratch over 40 years. You need experience. I’ve employed, I employ hundreds of people, I’ve created thousands of jobs, signed the front of probably more than a million or more paychecks, and I understand the issues. And I understood the issues before I arrived in Harrisburg, but now that I’ve been in Harrisburg and I see first hand, I understand the issues. But this is the most important, you need a leader with experience, who understands the issues who delivers results.
MADONNA: All right, last question, how is this working out for you? I mean, let’s be honest, you’re relatively unknown, you’ve never sought office before, is that correct?
BARTOS: That’s correct.
MADONNA: So this is a new venture for you?
MADONNA: So what’s the biggest single learning experience?
BARTOS: It’s been a fascinating year traveling around the commonwealth, I mean I’ve learned so much about politics. But I just want to piggyback off of what Scott said because forming a team, a strong team, has been critical to this campaign. And I’ve watched a leader – I joined this team because Scott has, and this is what a lot of people don’t know about Scott and his family, they are incredibly philanthropic. They are deeply concerned with the plight of youth at risk, and children who aren’t getting proper education and families that are suffering, and they put their own money and time into that and their company is very involved in the community. You have someone who is willing and eager to roll his sleeves up and get to work as opposed to just talk. And I think the most important thing is he attracts, Scott attracts people from all walks of life.
MADONNA: All right, they are in my ear. I want to thank you both for coming in and we will of course watch the course of this primary and see how it all goes.
Watch the ticket’s interview on “Face the State” HERE.
ROB HANRAHAN: Good morning, welcome to Face the State, I’m Rob Hanrahan. Once again, another special edition of Face the State. This week we have Senator Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos as our guests, both running for governor and lieutenant governor. We’re going to talk about the joint ticket in a minute, which I find fascinating, Senator, but first I want to get both of your reactions to the tragedy in South Florida, in Parkland at that school.
SCOTT WAGNER: It’s tragic. And my heart goes out – our families’ heart goes out to the parents of the victims and everyone that was there. This is senseless. And we are learning more about the shooter and his background and mental health issues and just other issues, but it’s very unfortunate.
HANRAHAN: And Jeff, just for any student that was in that building or there, it’s very, very jarring and unsettling.
JEFF BARTOS: I think what bonds all of us as parents and as community members, Sheryl and I have two teenage daughters both in high school, and your heart breaks. You can’t make sense of the senseless, and the violence, and the tragedy. As a community you come together, you hug, you express your condolences, you express your support and love, but it is an absolutely heartbreaking moment for the state of Florida and for our entire country.
HANRAHAN: And something the entire country will be taking a look at. Gentlemen, I promised to bring you on the program to talk about the gubernatorial campaign so let’s get started with you being the first to choose a running mate, Senator. Why and how is that going to work out?
WAGNER: Rob, that’s a great question. I’ve been in the Senate for four years and I watched the dysfunction between the current lieutenant governor and Governor Wolf and also I know the task at hand with solving a lot of the issues in Pennsylvania is going to be large, so I had the opportunity to meet Jeff last year and I got to know him more and more and at one point I said to myself, it’s really a shame that he is running for the Senate because he would be a great candidate for lieutenant governor. And I come from the private sector and I’m not used to having my teammates picked for me, I like to pick my own team, so Jeff and I had dialogue and here we are. This is going to be a team effort. I really see Jeff and I working together, almost parallel. If we had the opportunity to split up half the agencies, Jeff would spend his time in the first 90 days in say 15 of the agencies and I was at the other 15, I think we could get a lot done.
HANRAHAN: So if you win, you are going to work together as a team right off the bat?
HANRAHAN: Jeff, what do you bring to the table?
BARTOS: Well, I’m a private sector businessman. I’ve been involved in real estate development and running small businesses really for the last 15-17 years, I’m an attorney by training. And Scott and I really bonded initially as you travel all over the state as you are campaigning, we bonded initially over this idea that we are eager to have our children and grandchildren and everyone’s children and grandchildren choose to live in Pennsylvania. We want a dynamic, growing state that attracts talent from all over, where at our fine institutions of higher learning, students stay here after graduation. So we bonded over that initially and it was really why we were running. We want a state that attracts people. And so for me, for Scott to ask me to join the team, and to really focus in on economic growth, on dynamic leadership and really moving our state forward on the economic front was something that was a very attractive opportunity.
HANRAHAN: It’s one thing for me to ask and for us to talk about, what you would do if you take office if you would win this race, how will this make the campaign different – having a running mate?
WAGNER: Well I think, number one, Jeff understands the issues, he has private sector experience, he has leadership skills, he also has come from a world where results were expected, and that’s a lot of our problem right now in Harrisburg. We don’t have leadership in place, we haven’t for a long time. And I’m not trying to put anybody down, past governors or past lieutenant governors, but at the end of the day we have a large operation and leadership is required and you have to have someone who truly understands the issues. I just came from an event that the state chamber was hosting today and they were talking about employment, retaining employees, and skills that people have that currently work and how we have to work on enhancing the skills of those current workers, and then also we have a skilled labor crisis, and again I could go on and on about this subject because I’ve lived it in the private sector. But it’s so important that we have a team – and I use a team that has experience, and that we have the leadership. Jeff has the same skills that I have. And I happen to be, I’m 18-20 years older than Jeff, but at the end of the day I think this is a huge opportunity for Pennsylvania. The problems at hand – I’ll give you an example, the opioid heroin crisis, this is not just a Republican or a Democrat issue, it’s everybody’s issue. The skilled labor crisis, property taxes, everything that we talk about in Harrisburg isn’t exclusive to on party. We’re going to start talking about the issues and how we’re going to solve the issues. Because I could tell you something, we are looking for Democrats to vote for us, and that’s a big deal because we want to solve the problems of Pennsylvania.
HANRAHAN: Jeff, I managed to get the two of you together in one place. I imagine as you head into this campaign full steam that will probably change, right?
BARTOS: Absolutely. And I think Scott had great vision and great leadership to say early on I want to have a lieutenant governor who I can campaign with from day one, who when we win the primary we can take on the really tremendous fight we have ahead in the general election battle with an incumbent governor and lieutenant governor, and then we got to hit the ground running if we’re fortunate enough to be elected by the citizens of Pennsylvania. So you are right, one of the advantages that we have in the campaign is from day one we’re in different places all the time. It is rare, as you said, to be in the same place at the same time because Scott will be in Cumberland County and I’ll be in Schuylkill County or he’ll be in Westmoreland County and I’ll be in Montgomery County. And we are always strategically going to different parts of the state carrying the same message, the same energy, the same vigor, but in different parts. We can cover twice the amount of territory.
HANRAHAN: Perhaps why your opposition decided to go the same route. Now my question to you, Senator, is what would happen if you win and Jeff doesn’t?
SCOTT WAGNER: Well it would be interesting. If it plays out that way, that’s the way it plays out.
HANRAHAN: You will continue on?
SCOTT WAGNER: I will continue on, but Jeff, people have to realize Jeff has the skill set. Actually, Jeff probably has more from the negotiating side, working with the legislature. Jeff – I have shortcomings, and I’m going to be the first to admit that, and Jeff compliments my shortcomings. So where I’m a hands on operations person, there’s a lot that Jeff could compliment me on. That’s how we are going to convince the voters. Jeff brings a depth of experience.
HANRAHAN: Are we looking at the future here, Senator? There’s been some talk of changing the way Pennsylvania works so far as the lieutenant governor runs totally separate, lives off in a different residence totally separate from the governor, a lot of times they don’t even talk, we appear to have that situation now. Could you be forging the future here?
WAGNER: Potentially. Listen, I think that we have a system here that is not working. I mean this is a very large enterprise here in Pennsylvania. We would be a fortune 50 company if we were on the New York Stock Exchange –
HANRAHAN: Dead last.
WAGNER: We would be dead last. We would be in bankruptcy right now. Actually, as a public company we could file bankruptcy, as a state we can’t. But at the end of the day, yeah I think there is opportunity for change here. Listen, the time is now. We are dead last on a lot of lists and it’s really unfortunate because we have a great state. We have a great location. We have great resources. We have great people. The perfect location and all this natural gas that we have in Pennsylvania, but don’t have the infrastructure to get it to the markets. This is the time – we are at a crossroads. It’s either we go down State Street and we either turn left and go down toward I-83 or we turn right and just fight one way traffic, or we just go straight and drive into the river. I think we should turn left and drive into the future.
HANRAHAN: Jeff, I’ve got 30 seconds left, your comments on the Governor’s budget address?
BARTOS: Well I was very much in favor of his wearing an Eagles hat as a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, and then from there the address kind of went downhill. But I thought his approval of the Philadelphia Eagles – it was astounding to me that in prior budgets it was all about raising taxes, $4 billion, all of these kind of tried and true but failed policies on the liberal agenda, the leftist agenda, and this year, election year, we’re going to talk about the Eagles, we’re going to do a little cheer and then I’m going to talk for maybe 10 minutes about a severance tax that he knows is going nowhere and then he stopped. I mean, goodness gracious, 12 minutes, 15 minutes on a budget address in the fifth largest state in the country, we can do better than that.
HANRAHAN: We are talking about the governor’s race, and we have of course governor candidate Senator Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos, candidate for lieutenant governor both on the program. Charlie is here over there, but let’s start with Mark Singel.
MARK SINGEL: Well first of all I want to comment on this teaming up at this early phase. And the record will show that way back when, when I was running for lieutenant governor Bob Casey indicated a preference. And some will say he took me from the obscurity of a state senator’s seat to the oblivion of lieutenant governor. But it helped me. It really was the difference in my race for lieutenant governor. So there are those that will argue, just let the people decide and have them vote and all that, but I like it. I think it makes a lot of sense to indicate a preference so I think you did the right thing.
HANRAHAN: So you found common ground with a Democrat right here on the show. Charlie?
CHARLIE GEROW: Well let me just follow up with that real quick, because you asked the question, Rob, that I think is very interesting, but there is a corollary to it because gubernatorial candidates and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates don’t run as teams in the primary. So you were asked, Senator, what would happen if Jeff Bartos won and you lost – or he lost and you won, I want to ask the reverse. Jeff, what if you win and Senator Wagner loses? Are you comfortable running with any of the other Republican candidates for governor?
BARTOS: Well, of course let me just with saying it’s obviously a hypothetical – I’ll answer the question, but it’s a hypothetical. I think Scott and I as both the endorsed candidates in the Republican primary, we will win the primary, but as a hypothetical I’m running for this office because I want to help Scott execute his vision for Pennsylvania. I didn’t grow up dreaming to be lieutenant governor –
GEROW: Both of you are comfortable running with somebody else?
BARTOS: I haven’t even considered – I sincerely haven’t considered it. I don’t think it’s going to be a possibility, but my fist and foremast goal is to serve as an integral part of Scott’s administration.
SINGEL: Let me ask a tactical question, because we know we will get into the issues of the campaign and we know where people stand more or less, but I’m curious about this current election cycle. Every single special election that has occurred since the election of Donald Trump has been a millstone around the necks of the candidates. Do you intend to run with Trump or do you intend to distance yourself from Donald Trump?
WAGNER: Well, I’m not going to run from that question. There may be parts of the state where the President will come in and campaign. We polled recently and the President’s approval rating is high in Pennsylvania. People are starting to see, whether they are Democrats, Republicans or Independents, Marc, they are getting their 401K statements, the year-end statements, their stock market statements, they’re getting paychecks. Things are happening. The President has a style that some people question – the tweeting and everything – but at the end of the day, he went to Washington and he said that he was going to drain the swamp and that we had to make change. He’s not as popular down in the Southeast as he is say from Lancaster County, west. We’ll make that determination, but at the end of the day my campaign is about Pennsylvania. My campaign is not about Donald Trump. And Jeff and I are running to focus on the issues of Pennsylvania and I think that that’s going to be our theme and that’s going to be our mission.
HANRAHAN: Jeff, you’re from a primarily blue area of the state, so how do you intend to attract the Democratic vote?
BARTOS: So I was born and raised in Berks County but we’ve lived in Montgomery County for 20 years, so I’m very familiar with having to be a Republican in a blue area, especially where we live now. Two things, number one, Scott and I both are focused on addressing issues that Republican candidates traditionally have not addressed. So whether it’s urban poverty, or rural poverty, or urban educational decay and moving our education system forward to address the needs of parents and students that have been left out and forgotten for too long, those are issues that Republicans I think own the solutions to, we just have to have the courage to go into the communities that we have not reached out to yet, and sit down and talk and make inroads and show that we care.
HANRAHAN: And that will be your job?
BARTOS: That will be my job and Scott’s job. We’ve really split that up. But we both care deeply about it, and I think that’s something that I’m uniquely situated to do having grown up in a rural county, but now living for 20 years in a much more suburban and urban environment.
GEROW: Let me just ask another question about endorsements and support of people within the Republican realm and orbit. One of President Trump’s former friends, Steve Bannon, was a big supporter of you and you of him, is that still an endorsement that you welcome?
WAGNER: Well let’s back up. I met Steve Bannon in September. I had the opportunity to travel with him, I met him for the first time, I did a bio check on him, he has an interesting background – but time will tell. But he’s come out and he’s endorsed me and I have not asked him to Pennsylvania, time will tell. But again, it’s back to, this isn’t about Bannon or Trump, this is about the people of Pennsylvania and what we can do for Pennsylvania. And there are people that like Bannon and there are people that don’t like him. There are people that like me and don’t like me, but at the end of the day we want to talk about the issues in Pennsylvania that we see as the hot items that we have to work on.
GEROW: Let’s come right to it then, what is the most important issue in the fall campaign against Tom Wolf?
WAGNER: It is a governor who hasn’t signed a budget in three years. Listen, we are bankrupt, Charlie. And we are going to zero-based budgeting when I become governor. We’re going to find out where every dollar is going. We’re going to find out where it comes from and where it’s going. And I believe if we do zero-based budgeting we’re going to find $1.5 billion to $4 billion the first year. We need to continue to grow our economy. We have at least 200,000 skilled labor positions open in Pennsylvania, we can’t find people. We need to retool our education system.
GEROW: One of you colleagues from the Senate, John DeSanto, who I’m a big fan of, says that we can cut state spending across the board by 10 percent. Do you think that’s plausible?
WAGNER: I would do it differently. You’ll never hear me use the word cut, I use the word manage. And when you manage you go in and measure, and when you measure and you have the metrics, then you make business decisions based on those metrics. And there’s a good possibility as it flows out, yeah there’s a possibility that it could be five to ten percent could be reduced in spending. Listen, there are state employees still walking around with leather notebooks and legal tablets. As people retire – and we are going to be faced with a challenge also to find people to replace the people that are retiring, if we retrain and give them tools and technology, there’s a good possibility we can increase productivity, head count will go down, that’s the opportunity here. It’s about change. Change is scary for a lot of people, but this demographic shift and everything we are talking about – but, yeah, John could be accurate.
SINGEL: I don’t want to cut off your train of thought, here but I do – every gubernatorial candidate has in mind specific goals, things they want to do. And it’s distressing to me to hear on the campaign trail the vagueness – we’re going to cut taxes, we’re going to stop spending, blah, blah, blah. I want to know specifically, where, if in fact you get elected governor, lieutenant governor, where specifically do you intend to cut? What services are you going to cut?
WAGNER: Mark, you are again using a word – you’re putting a word in my mouth. I didn’t use cut – manage. I want to go into agencies, zero-based budgeting. And Mark, we do it in the private sector all the time. Exon Corporation, a $300 billion a year revenue corporation does zero-based budgeting. There are a lot of questions that I can’t answer on this show because I don’t have access to the numbers. I have to go in, I’m a business guy, I want the numbers and I want accurate numbers. I’m on my fourth year of the appropriations hearings coming up, I can’t get half the answers. So it’s about managing, not about cutting. And we need to make sure that the money is going to the right places. But Mark, in 2006 Governor Rendell signed a statewide radio contract. It was supposed to start at the State Police, and it was supposed to be developed and other agencies would use it, but in the summer of 2016 that contract was terminated after 10 years and almost $1 billion was wasted. I don’t hear anyone screaming in Harrisburg about that – $1 billion wasted and we have schools in Philadelphia, schools in Erie that are almost 100-year-old schools. That’s the problem over here, Mark, nobody cares. What about the $500 million that was wasted over at Labor and Industry on the computer software upgrade? I don’t hear anybody screaming. I’m going to do the screaming for the people of Pennsylvania.
SINGEL: So those are – those are good specifics. I’m glad to hear you say that.
HANRAHAN: Unfortunately, I’m out of time. Senator Scott Wagner, Jeff Bartos, governor candidate, lieutenant governor candidate, gentlemen thank you both for coming on the program.