In the Hall of Valor on the ground floor of Oakland’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango kicked off his 2018 campaign Wednesday by asserting, “I am ready to serve.”
“I seek this responsibility for reasons far greater than myself,” he said.
It was one of many nods toward military service by Mr. Mango, a West Point graduate who served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
Wednesday’s appearance launched a statewide tour of campaign stops for Mr. Mango, who lives in Richland and resigned as director of the Pittsburgh office of consulting firm McKinsey & Company in mid-February.
“It’s no coincidence that I chose to announce my candidacy here” in the veterans memorial hall, he said. By contrast, he said, during incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2015 inaugural speech, “never once did he use the word veteran.”
A transcript of Mr. Wolf’s speech confirms that, though veterans from Pittston did appear, carrying out the flag presentation at the beginning of the inaugural.
Otherwise, Mr. Mango, in his roughly 18-minute speech, spoke broadly of the need to “make sure that Harrisburg starts doing its job and stops doing ours.” He lamented Harrisburg institutions as “relics of the early 20th century,” whose tax burdens hinder growth and whose “reach into our lives now far exceeds its grasp of the problems we face.”
But Mr. Mango, who was hustled out by campaign staff before reporters could ask question, sketched out few concrete policy proposals. His website also offers only scattered specifics, including a pledge to end government funding for Planned Parenthood, which currently receives public funds only for non-abortion services.
Prior to Mr. Mango’s event, local Democrats challenged him to be more specific, especially in light of efforts to roll back Barack Obama’s 2009 health care overhaul. Republicans in Washington, D.C., have proposed allowing states to reduce protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and three Pittsburgh-area state representatives called on Mr. Mango to say whether he would do so if elected.
“You can’t announce your running for governor and not have a plan to address one of the most critical issues facing [the state] today,” said Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District.
Mr. Mango’s speech only lightly touched on health care. Asked about his health policy last week, the campaign offered a general statement pledging to “work collaboratively with … physicians, hospitals, insurers, and patients” on creating a better system.
Mr. Mango is the second Republican to enter the race. State Sen. Scott Wagner of York launched his own bid in January. Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, is expected to announce his run sometime after the state budget is completed.
Sam DeMarco, the Republican at-large representative on Allegheny County Council, hailed the crowded field.
“As a Republican, I believe in choice,” he said. “The competition will raise the bar for all.”
This is Mr. Mango’s first run for office. His previous political activity has often involved writing checks. He has spent over $220,000 on Republican causes nationwide since 2003, federal records show. Among his largest beneficiaries were committees tied to failed 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
“A lot of people are interested” in Mr. Mango’s prospects, said Republican political consultant Christopher Nicholas. Mr. Mango’s military record and business background are “all good credentials,” he said. And while Mr. Mango may be a bit of a mystery now, Mr. Nicholas said, “One reason it helps having long campaigns over big territory is: You can’t hide yourself too long.”
Chris Potter: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2533.
Correction, posted May, 18, 2017: In an earlier version of this story, Mr. Mango’s occupation was inaccurate.