The Scott Wagner campaign is crying foul after the first statewide poll conducted in Pennsylvania in the aftermath of Wagner claiming the Republican gubernatorial nomination showed Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf with a 19 percent lead in the race.
The poll by Franklin & Marshall College was conducted from June 4 to 10 by phone calls and online surveys of 472 registered voters in Pennsylvania. It showed that 48 percent of its sample supported Wolf, 29 percent supported Wagner and 23 percent were undecided.
In a release on Wagner’s campaign website, the former state senator’s campaign manager, Jason High, questioned the methodology of the poll, targeting a number of perceived deficiencies.
“The poll is fundamentally flawed on several levels, but one that our campaign wants to highlight is the most basic component of the survey – the partisan breakdown of the participants,” High wrote, pointing out that Republican respondents were far outnumbered by Democrats in the poll. “Democratic turnout has never outweighed Republican turnout by 9 points in recent Pennsylvania history.”
High noted that the Franklin & Marshall poll was simply of registered voters and didn’t attempt to narrow its focus to likely voters. He also said that polling done at the behest of the Wagner campaign told a different story.
“McLaughlin [and Associates] surveyed likely voters who have a history of actually turning out,” he said. “Our poll sees a single digit race among folks that have definitely made up their mind and shows a significant portion of voters still up for grabs. Perhaps more importantly, among voters who have formed an opinion of both Scott Wagner and Tom Wolf, Scott Wagner leads by 8 [percent].”
Meanwhile, Wolf and Wagner each took advantage of opportunities in the past week to reach out to voters with their respective priorities and qualifications.
In a speech to the Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce, Wolf aimed to present himself as a friend to the business community, touching repeatedly on his own background as a businessman before he entered the political arena.
“I was sitting in your chair not too long ago, and I was a leader of my own business,” Wolf said. “And I wanted the same things from government that you want. And I know that’s an unusual thing to say, business leaders wanting something from their government, but you actually do need, at least I need, and I know you do too, reliable and robust infrastructure.”
Wolf rattled off a litany of what he considered his administration’s achievements, such as job growth, cuts to state budgets and allowing the capital stock and franchise tax to expire.
“We’ve accomplished real and meaningful pension reform,” he said. “That pension reform actually reduces risks for the state and its employees both, gets us back on track to actually get that big expense under control.”
The governor touched on the lack of skilled workers in the state as companies struggle to find prospective employees with the right qualifications, and touted a number of spending proposals he hopes to implement to address the issue. Those plans include investing $25 million in STEM and computer education, $7 million for apprenticeship programs and $5 million to entice private businesses to partner with community colleges.
“We want to make sure that Pennsylvanians have access to meaningful careers,” he told the assembled business representatives. “And they’re not going to be able to do that in the 21st Century without good education. If we get that, we’re helping you, we’re helping everybody who’s in business.”
For Wagner, part of his outreach efforts consisted of a Facebook Live “town hall” video stream where he took questions about how he would govern if elected.
He stated that there are still serious flaws with the teacher pension system in Pennsylvania and pushed back on accusations from the Wolf camp that he would be looking to slash teachers’ pensions.
“in 2016, on $50 billion in the teachers pension fund … the return was 1.29 percent,” Wagner said. “And so the actual return to … that pension fund was a little over $600 million, but we paid money managers $416 million. Listen, there’s something wrong with this picture, and as the next governor, we’re going to figure out how we can maximize the returns in those pension funds to make sure that everybody receives the pension that they’re promised.”
Wagner talked, too, about how excessive regulation continues to be a drag on Pennsylvania’s economy, in stark contrast to what is seen in other states.
“I heard from a friend of mine today who’s a large contractor here in central Pennsylvania,” he said. “He’s working with a non-U.S. based company, they’re building a building down in the southeast … toward Philadelphia. … It’s taken them over two years to get their approvals to build a building, and they’re still not finished in the approval process. That same company is building an identical building in Wisconsin, and it’s taken 45 days to get approval.”
On the topic of property tax relief, Wagner made one of his most direct and forceful statements of the campaign thus far.
“My message to Pennsylvania voters, if you vote for me, and I become the next governor, I will eliminate your school taxes on your home,” he said. “And that does not include your municipal tax or your county tax. And it’s my job to figure out how to pay for this. So you know, again, if you vote for me, and I become the next governor, it will be my number one task to eliminate your taxes, your school taxes when your home.”