PA Lt. Gov. Hopefuls Release New Ads

By John Celock

Two of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor have released new commercials as the heated campaign enters its final week.

Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith has released a 15-second ad highlighting his support for abortion rights and hitting two of his opponents on the issue, while state Rep. Brandon Neuman has a 30-second spot highlighting his biography. This is Smith’s third 15-second commercial of the cycle and Neuman’s first. Both have previously released YouTube videos highlighting their life stories. Smith, 35, and Neuman, 32, are two of the youngest statewide candidates in the country this year. The primary is on Tuesday.

Neuman’s ad, released Wednesday, is largely a recut version of his previously released video. He highlights his residence in Washington County and touches on his general philosophy in office.

“As a state legislator I have placed getting things done above partisan politics,” Neuman said in the commercial.

In his commercial, which debuted Tuesday, Smith focuses on his support from Planned Parenthood on abortion rights. In a direct appeal to progressives, who could dominate the primary vote in the Philadelphia region, Smith attacks two of his opponents, former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz and state Sen. Mike Stack, for their opposition to abortion.

In his ad, Smith mentions a vote Stack took on legislation that closed several abortion clinics in the state and Critz’s votes in Congress against federal funding for abortion. Smith describes Stack and Critz as “major candidates” for the lieutenant governor nomination and does not mention either Neuman or the fifth candidate in the race, Harrisburg Councilman Brad Koplinski.

Critz has been criticized by progressives for his conservative voting record and has been given a negative endorsement by Equality PA for opposing marriage equality. He has touted his differences with progressive Democrats in the lieutenant governor’s race, saying it allows him to bring a different perspective to state government. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has endorsed Critz, a Johnstown resident.

While progressives are likely to dominate the primary vote in the Philadelphia region, voters in other parts of the state tend to be more socially conservative.

Neuman, while not mentioned in the ad, voted for the state not to permit coverage of elective abortions in the state health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act. The bill allowed for coverage in the event of rape, incest or dangers to the life of the mother.

The abortion issue has been playing out in the Democratic gubernatorial primary as well, with supporters of U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, touting her support for abortion rights and past work on women’s health. Schwartz, who is backed by EMILY’s List, is locked in a battle with former state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, state Treasurer Rob McCord and former state Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty for the nomination. Polls have placed Wolf as the gubernatorial frontrunner.

Under Pennsylvania law, the winners of the primaries for governor and lieutenant governor will run as a ticket in November against the Republican ticket of Gov. Tom Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley. Corbett is viewed as one of the most vulnerable Republican governors in the country this year.

In Pennsylvania, the lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate and the state Board of Pardons, along with working on emergency management and local government issues. Cawley has also been given responsibility for fracking policy in the state. The last Pennsylvania lieutenant governor to succeed to the governorship was Republican Mark Schweiker in 2001 after Tom Ridge took the top homeland security job in the Bush Administration.