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Fetterman v. Stack v. Dean: Will this be a Pa. race to remember? | John Baer

With the entrance of hulking Braddock mayor John Fetterman, the already crowded Democratic primary for lieutenant governor is starting to look surprisingly interesting.

John Fetterman and Madeleine Dean could offer Dems an interesting choice.
John Fetterman and Madeleine Dean could offer Dems an interesting choice.Read moreEd Hille/Michael Bryant

Oh, the possibilities.

A race for an office nobody cares about. An incumbent who only got attention through misbehavior. And the prospect of The Hulk of Pa. politics vs. the dandy of the Democratic Party.

Also, with women candidates on the rise, it could include a savvy, popular Montgomery County pol who, while a member of the horrid legislature, really isn't one of them.

It's all too much to hope for. But it sure could make for tons of fun.

Which is odd, since we're talking about a primary for lieutenant governor, something that never gets noticed and rarely impacts the race for governor.

Yet here we are on the cusp of Democratic Gov. Wolf's reelection bid with a genuine battle taking shape over who will run with him.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, he of national note and mountainous mien, on Tuesday announced he's in — black work clothes, tats, shaved head and all.

Madeleine Dean, former LaSalle assistant prof, lawyer and progressive Montco lawmaker, tells me she's seriously thinking about getting in.

(By the way, she too has ink. On her foot. The signature of John Baptist de la Salle, patron saint of teachers.)

And Philly's Mike Stack, current occupant of the office, former ward leader and state Senator, part time thespian and colorful fashionista, is, says his spokesman, running for reelection.

The primary is in May.

Other announced candidates are activist Aryanna Berringer, of Westmoreland County, and Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone.

And here's some irony.

This interesting mix of style, gender and geography to oppose an incumbent, was created by Stack himself.

You'll recall Stack being shunned by Wolf, stripped of security and some staff, after charges Stack and wife Tonya were abusive to state employees.

The state Inspector General investigated, Stack apologized, Tonya sought mental-health treatment, and the issue (and the IG's report) basically went away.

But Wolf never sought Stack as a running mate and sure doesn't want him now. So, alternatives began to emerge.

The irony? With five candidates in the race, two from west, three from the east, Stack's reelection chances, simply based on name ID and Philly votes, improve.

At least that's the view of some party insiders who note Stack won a five-way LG primary in 2014. Wolf's campaign declined to comment.

(Remember, LG candidates run separately in primaries, but with the gubernatorial nominee in general elections.)

I'd note two things.

First, a confession: I can't shake the made-for-TV image of bald and broad 6'8" Fetterman verbally sparring with carefully-coiffed, slim-fit Stack. A cage-match.

And second, it seems to me the primary race could bedevil thoughtful Democratic voters.

If there is appetite to jettison Stack, and let's assume there is, the contest could well come down to Fetterman or Dean.

Then the question becomes which is better for the party and the party's future, and which helps Wolf the most.

With women candidates trending well in 2017 elections, and given Pennsylvania's historic paucity of women in top elective offices, no doubt many Dems would love a woman on the ticket.

Plus, Dean could help gin up turnout in critical vote-rich southeast counties.

Thing is, Wolf's already strong in Dean's region and with women voters.

On the other hand, Fetterman, from Allegheny County, helps with western Pennsylvania, which hasn't been kind to Democrats. And likely, and despite his Harvard education, could attract chunks of a working-class constituency not necessarily drawn to Wolf.

It's easy to overplay the importance of an LG race. But if this one plays out anywhere near the way it's shaping up, it'll offer Democrats real contrast and won't be easy to ignore.