There’s a good reason Tom Wolf and Scott Wagner are from the same county and running for governor.
Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record
Republican Scott Wagner delivered an ominous message to incumbent Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf, and some voters are taking it as a threat.
But Wagner’s supporters are cheering him on.
“Governor Wolf, let me tell you, between now and November 6th, you better put a catcher’s mask on your face because I’m gonna stomp all over your face with golf spikes because I’m gonna win this for the state of Pennsylvania, and we’re throwing you out of office because you know what, I’m sick and tired of your negative ads,” Wagner said in a fiery salvo on Facebook Live.
Watch video clip below (story continues after video):
Scott Wagner made a comment that was criticize in a Facebook Live campaign video.
Cameron Clark, York Daily Record
Wolf’s campaign spokeswoman, Beth Melena, first responded with a question: “Was Wagner channeling John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, or Rambo in his latest unhinged rant?”
“Scott Wagner’s latest rant shows he is unhinged and unfit for office,” Melena said in a follow-up comment. “Threats of violence have no place in society, especially from someone running for public office. This is part of an unfortunate pattern with Scott Wagner.”
The governor’s press secretary, J.J. Abbott, called it “disgusting” in a tweet.
The governor’s supporters and other politicos are calling Wagner’s Facebook Live a “meltdown.”
John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, said Wagner has “lost it.”
On Friday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican House Majority Whip, said on Twitter “there is absolutely no place in our politics for this kind of rhetoric.”
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Wagner’s supporters on Facebook liked the rant and said to “send Wolf packing.”
The former state senator spent most of the Facebook Live defending himself against a campaign ad that said Wagner’s Penn Waste has sued more than 6,000 Pennsylvanians.
The billboard ad was paid for by PA Spotlight, a nonprofit accountability organization that claims to be independent of any campaigns and has no relationship to the Wolf campaign.
Background on Penn Waste practices under fire:
When asked whether Wagner was threatening harm to a sitting governor, Wagner’s campaign spokesman, Andrew Romeo, shared the following statement:
“Scott’s comments were not to be taken literally. He wanted them to be a metaphor for how he will approach the final stretch of the campaign. Tom Wolf has spent the entire race hiding behind false and negative attack ads like a coward instead of debating in front of the people of Pennsylvania and Scott will spend the last month of the race making it clear to voters why they should not give him a second term.”
Wagner’s latest missive is not the first time he’s used threatening language against Wolf. During a budget battle in 2016, then-state Sen. Wagner said to PoliticsPA, “We had him down on the floor with our foot on his throat and let him up. Next time, we won’t let him up.”
He defended that language in a following interview with the York Daily Record.
“I stick by the statement because this is a war between Gov. Wolf and conservative Republicans,” he added. “They continue to call me an extremist/Tea Party person, but I’m just a lifelong Republican.”
Here’s a more complete look at some of his past comments:
- In 2014, Wagner said labor unions were about “power and control”’ and compared them to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin. (He later said he used an unfortunate analogy.)
- Wagner criticized Wolf’s budget in 2016. He said the following at the GOP Winter Meeting in Hershey, “We had him down on the floor with our foot on his throat and we let him up. Next time, we won’t let him up.”
- In 2017, Wagner grabbed a camera away from a political tracker at the Country Club of York. “You’re about to see your senator in action,” he said.
- Wagner said climate change was being caused by body heat and the Earth moving closer to the sun. (It’s not.)
- He later called a woman “young and naïve” for asking about his statements on climate change.
- In response to Wolf vetoing legislation related to the opioid crisis and workers comp, and accepting money from a political action committee that receives money from doctors and lawyers who own pharmacies, Wagner told a radio host, “This guy should be arrested.”
- Wagner described the liberal billionaire and Democratic supporter George Soros as a “Hungarian Jew.” (“If he was Catholic, he would have been ‘a Hungarian Catholic.’ There was nothing offensive meant by that,” Wagner said.)
Wagner’s explosive language is common to his conduct but highly unusual in a governor’s race, according to Terry Madonna, veteran pollster and political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College.
“Other candidates for governor have been more traditional and avoided use of strong language, at least on the record,” Madonna said.
Earlier this week, Wagner said he’s “tapped out” financially. Days later, he had a fundraiser with a Fox News host. If Wagner is truly out of money, Facebook Live is a free way to get his message out.
Also, Wagner is down in the polls. Independent polls show him 15 to 22 points behind Wolf.
“When you are down double digits, you need to do virtually anything possible to shake up the election,” Madonna said.
Watch the full Facebook video:
Social media is a quick way to reach a lot of people and “shake up drama,” he said.
“It certainly captured attention,” Madonna said. “The question is whether it helps you or not.”
Staff writer Dylan Segelbaum contributed to this report.
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