Categories Op/Ed

Editorial: Lieutenant Governor Debacle Shows Urgent Need for Change

The relationship between the governor of Pennsylvania and the lieutenant governor is sometimes a good one — but when it is, it’s only by chance.

For example, Gov. Tom Ridge had an excellent working relationship with Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker. Mr. Ridge, a former congressman and assistant district attorney, turned to Mr. Schweiker, a former township supervisor and county commissioner, for his expertise on local government. Mr. Schweiker played a large enough role in Mr. Ridge’s administration that when President George W. Bush needed to put someone in charge of homeland security following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the governor’s office had a nearly seamless tradition as Mr. Schweiker took over.

Mr. Ridge, however, did not pick Mr. Schweiker; he had the good fortune to have Mr. Schweiker thrust upon him by Republican primary voters. Since the same voters are picking a party’s nominee for governor as for lieutenant governor, one might expect them to pick like-minded people. But in a crowded primary, it’s easy for some oddball candidate to win with a plurality. And since few voters pay attention to a low-profile race like lieutenant governor, we get some oddballs.

Crowded, low-profile primaries often lead to odd winners. If there are 10 people on the ballot, many people will pick the first one. Or they will pick the only one from their region of the state, or the only candidate of their gender or some other distinction that has nothing to do with competence in office.

Right now, we have an especially bad relationship between Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack. It’s so bad that Mr. Wolf cut of Mr. Stack’s security detail after allegations that Mr. Stack and his wife had treated the state troopers assigned to them badly. Might this have been avoided if Mr. Wolf had picked a running mate himself instead of having Mr. Stack thrust upon him?

If the relationship between Mr. Wolf and Mr. Stack were an anomaly, we might be wise to dismiss it as a problem that we can safely ignore until it goes away. But we have had plenty of governors who did not get along especially well with their lieutenants. Who can forget the time when Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll introduced Gov. Edward G. Rendell as “Edward G. Robinson,” the stage name of an old-time movie actor? Mr. Rendell seldom appeared with Ms. Knoll and, when she died, had an even more distant relationship with her successor, Joe Scarnati, a Republican who had been president pro tempore of the state Senate.

Thankfully, somebody is doing something about it. State Sen. Dave Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican, has proposed an amendment to the state Constitution that would let candidates for governor pick their running mates.

Mr. Argall’s idea is a good one. He has had little difficulty getting co-sponsors for this, including those from across the aisle. The process for changing the state Constitution is too slow to do anything about the relationship between Mr. Wolf and Mr. Stack, but making sure this doesn’t happen again is a wise move.

 

The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethtown Advocate. Other opinions on this page are those of individual contributors. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.

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