Wagner's negative TV ad gives response to Peduto's

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The Jack Wagner campaign is firing back at Bill Peduto with a caustic rebuttal to the councilman's ad criticizing Mr. Wagner's record on budget issues and pay raises.

The new negative Wagner ad opens with a denunciation of Mr. Peduto's negative ad, contending that it unfairly associated him with Corbett administration budget policies.

"Pay raises? Jack Wagner rejected pay raises,'' it states further, appearing to contradict the Peduto ad's criticism. In fact both ads -- the first negative commercials of the Democratic mayoral campaign -- cherry-pick isolated elements of Mr. Wagner's record in trying to make their points to voters.

"On the budget, Wagner is on the record as siding with Republicans,'' Peduto spokeswoman Sonya Toler said in a challenging the Wagner ad. "The cuts targeted by Gov. [Tom] Corbett would cut essential services like Meals on Wheels and cut health care for more than 100,000 people. On the budget cuts, Wagner said, 'I think Corbett was right.' "

It is accurate, as the Wagner ad states, that Mr. Wagner criticized some of the specific cuts in Corbett administration budgets during the time their terms overlapped in Harrisburg. In newspaper citations supplied by the Wagner camp, the former auditor general spoke against cutting the funding for the AdultBasic health care program.

It is true that Mr. Wagner was a chronic critic of the management of the Department of Public Welfare during the preceding Rendell administration. In audits criticized by the Democratic governor, he contended that the welfare rolls were marked by unacceptably high error rates. Republican figures, including Mr. Corbett, repeatedly cited Mr. Wagner's error rate critique in arguing for belt-tightening in that department.

But the Wagner camp notes that he also criticized cuts in welfare department funding proposed by House Republicans during the Corbett administration.

The Peduto ad said that Mr. Wagner supported Corbett budget policies that resulted in cuts to programs including Meals on Wheels and health care.

It is true that Mr. Wagner supported a conservative approach to spending in general, and specifically sided with Republicans over House Democrats in a disagreement over revenue projections.

It can be argued, as Ms. Toler does, that that position logically means that fewer dollars would have been available to spend on all kinds of programs, including Meals on Wheels. But it is not accurate -- as the Peduto ad seems to suggest -- that he ever advocated for specific cuts in those programs.

On the pay raise issue, the Wagner ad indignantly notes that Mr. Wagner opposed a recent pay increase, implying that Mr. Peduto's ad was wrong in saying that he had voted to raise his own pay and pension. To buttress their position, they pointed to Mr. Wagner's criticism of a 2010 salary increase for state officials. But it is also accurate, as the Peduto ad critically noted, that Mr. Wagner voted for a pay increase and major pension increase for legislators while he was a member of the state Senate.

"Bill Peduto? A city council colleague says Peduto 'doesn't work well with others' and holds 'petty grudges,' " the ad states near its close.

That's an accurate reference to comments by city Council President Darlene Harris about Mr. Peduto in a news conference in which she endorsed Mr. Wagner. But, of course, that's just her opinion.

Both of the negative ads are running in rotation with more positive bio spots from Mr. Peduto and Mr. Wagner.

The other Democratic candidates, state Rep. Jake Wheatley and A.J. Richardson, have yet to air any television commercials.

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Politics editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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