Until Pennsylvania has a more rational way to nominate candidates for lieutenant governor — such as letting gubernatorial nominees pick their running mates — voters will have to scrutinize those seeking the No. 2 spot on the ticket even when they don’t know who No. 1 will be.
In the May 20 primary, the Republican contender, incumbent Jim Cawley, is unopposed. Democratic voters, however, will choose from five candidates for their nominee: state Rep. Brandon Neuman of Washington County, 32; Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith Jr., 36; Harrisburg Councilman Brad Koplinski, 44; state Sen. Michael Stack of Philadelphia, 50, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown, 52.
Beyond highlighting their background and service, most of them are seeking nomination the way lieutenant governor candidates in Pennsylvania usually do, by showcasing their positions on issues, as if they were running for governor.
Rep. Neuman is proud, among other things, of his proposals that would end “pay to play” contracts and curb identity theft. Commissioner Smith emphasizes his knowledge of the risks and benefits of Marcellus Shale drilling since his county has so many wells. Councilman Koplinski wants to support struggling municipalities and keep public schools competitive. Sen. Stack seeks to reverse education cuts and have a tax code that promotes economic growth. All well and good.
The candidate, however, who most readily acknowledges and appears most eager to perform the true No. 2 nature of this job — they don’t call it lieutenant governor for nothing — is Mr. Critz. As the longtime chief aide to the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, Mr. Critz tells voters that he already has served capably in a support role. He reminds Democrats that the lieutenant’s duty is to work for the governor and his or her priorities, not advance an agenda of one’s own.
Politically, Mr. Critz would bring Western balance to a Democratic ticket that will be led by someone from the Eastern half of the state and conservative perspective to a gubernatorial pick who will be more liberal. As a former congressman in a varied district, he is also well-informed on state issues and could be an advantageous link to Washington.
In a five-candidate field, Mark Critz stands apart from the rest. He has earned the Post-Gazette endorsement and he deserves the Democratic nomination.