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Mom has Lt. Gov. Stack's back | Clout

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack's tough reelection campaign has benefited from some hefty financial support from his biggest fan: his mother.

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack
Lt. Gov. Mike StackRead moreED HILLE / Staff Photographer

Millennials are usually on the receiving end of jokes about being forever tethered to their parents' basements and bank accounts.

But what about middle-aged politicians?

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III, facing a slew of challengers in his reelection campaign, is getting help from his mother, retired Municipal Court Judge Felice R. Stack, on two fronts.

Mike Stack, you might recall, last month listed his mother's house in Northeast Philly as his residence on his nominating petitions, instead of the lieutenant governor's mansion near Harrisburg. (He and his wife, Tonya, sold their Philly house in 2016.)

A group of Democratic voters asked a Commonwealth Court judge to block Stack from listing Philadelphia as his county of residence on the May 15 primary ballot, a move that could have cost Stack crucial votes.

Stack insisted that his mother's home is his primary residence, and described it as the "family nerve center." He said he paid the wage tax in 2016 and 2017 and renewed his driver's license using his mother's address. A judge sided with Stack, writing: "It is the place where he votes, collects mail, pays taxes, stores personal effects, and spends occasional nights."

But Stack is also getting significant financial support from his mom. We previously reported that Felice Stack was one of her son's biggest contributors, lending his campaign $60,000 last year.

Campaign finance reports made available this week show Felice Stack lent $10,000 more through March and donated an additional $5,000. She also lent $100,000 to her son's first campaign for lieutenant governor in 2014.

To be sure, Stack isn't the only candidate for lieutenant governor who has received hefty financial help from a parent.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman received an allowance of $54,000 from his parents in 2014, according to financial disclosure forms he filed in 2015 while he was running for U.S. Senate.

Stack campaign spokesman Marty Marks said this is all mom ado about nothing.

"It would be a much bigger story if his mother didn't support him," Marks said. "The fact is, the Stack family values reflect three generations of public service going back to his grandfather, who served as a member of Congress during the New Deal era. Of course Judge Stack supports her son."

A slap or not a slap?

The race to replace retiring State Rep. Bill Keller in South Philly's 184th District is already plenty crowded, with four candidates — Nicholas DiDonato, Elizabeth Fiedler, Jonathan Rowan and Tom Wyatt — in the mix. But there's a hint of tension in the air, too.

DiDonato, a retired Philly cop, has been raising a stink about not receiving the backing of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. The powerful union endorsed Rowan, a former aide to State Sen. Larry Farnese, last week.

Clout thought this sounded a little like sour grapes.

"This isn't sour grapes," DiDonato said. "I'm a proud member of the FOP. I just don't like the ethical dealings of what the board did."

Whoa, whoa, whoa. What's this talk about ethical dealings?

DiDonato said he visited the FOP's Northeast Philly headquarters in early March and made his pitch to the union's endorsement board, just as other candidates did.

But when his presentation was over, DiDonato claimed, one of the board members asked him if he knew which candidate was favored by Electricians Local 98 boss John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty. The question struck him as a little odd.

"And then they came out on social media and endorsed Rowan, who incidentally is the guy Johnny Doc is backing," DiDonato said. "Kind of questionable, don't you think?"

Local 98 spokesman Frank Keel said the union has not yet officially decided which candidate it will support in the 184th District.

FOP president John McNesby wasn't there for DiDonato's presentation — he isn't part of the endorsement board — but he scoffed at the suggestion that the union was somehow in cahoots with Dougherty.

"Not a single person wanted to endorse him," McNesby said of DiDonato.

"Our issues are pensions, equipment and safety, and he's talking about the parking on Broad Street and the Mummers. It didn't make any sense. I don't know what Johnny Doc has to do with anything."

(DiDonato's early platform issues were indeed allowing illegal parking to remain unchecked on the South Broad Street median, and returning the New Year's Day parade to its original South Philly-centric route.)

DiDonato said an FOP board member recently asked to speak to him. "My response to that was, 'There's nothing to talk about. Thank you for the slap in the face,'" he said.

"We wish him well," McNesby said.

Oh, no, they didn’t

Subtlety and state politics don't exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly these days. But even your seen-it-all friends at Clout tripped over what the Pennsylvania Republican Party seemed to imply in a fundraising email that made the rounds this week.

The missive started off by citing an Inquirer and Daily News story that explored lingering questions that surround U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and former Democratic congressional candidate Marjorie Margolies, both of whom were eyed in separate federal investigations that resulted in charges of conspiracy and facilitating illegal campaign contributions being filed against longtime political consultant Ken Smukler.

"Why have prosecutors decided to charge the consultant but not these high-profile Democratic Party candidates?" read a portion of the email. "Part of the problem is that southeastern Pennsylvania is a Democratic Party swamp…where candidates knowingly violate election laws and are not prosecuted."

Reading between the lines, the email — signed by state Republican Party executive director Mike Stoll — seemed to suggest that federal prosecutors were looking the other way on political corruption.

We wonder if former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, former State Sen. Vince Fumo, and former Philly District Attorney Seth Williams — Democrats whose political careers were all ended by federal investigators — would agree.

So, about that Chester County race

Last week, Clout reported on a bit of drama – one of our specialties – in Chester County, where Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello recently took a powder and decided at the last minute not to run for re-election, leaving political newbie and tax lawyer Greg McCauley Sr. as the sole Republican candidate on the ballot.

We heard that some Chester County GOP leaders were floating the idea of recruiting another Republican, Coatesville's Amber Little-Turner, to run a write-in campaign to oppose Democrat Chrissy Houlahan.

Chester County and Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio said last week that he hadn't enlisted Little-Turner to run, but added, "I'm just making sure the committee understands all their options."

Ah, yes. Options.

We checked back with DiGiorgio this week. He now says local Republican leaders have coalesced behind McCauley – no "buts," no "options."

"It was a consensus decision of the leaders in Chester County to get behind Greg enthusiastically and wholeheartedly. It was a group decision," DiGiorgio said, adding that the county committee wanted to make sure it properly vetted McCauley in the little time they had.

Now, the question becomes: How do they hang onto this seat?

"That's a tough race," DiGiorgio admitted. "But in Greg, I think we have a candidate who's viable and is going to create a lot of enthusiasm. We think we're in the race and certainly not giving up."

Staff writers Andrew Seidman, David Gambacorta, and William Bender contributed to this column.