On the airwaves and the internet, Republican Paul Mango makes his case against his enemies in ways ranging from playful to absurd.
There's the notorious advertisement labeling primary opponent Scott Wagner a deadbeat dad and a slumlord. The video of a dancing chicken mocking Wagner for failing to attend a debate. There's "Thomas the Tax Engine," his moniker for Democratic Gov. Wolf, and the 24 tweets he sent over two days in the lead-up to Halloween portraying the governor as a tax ghoul.
But Mango says those aren't attacks — they're simply facts in the service of getting himself elected the next governor of Pennsylvania. The 59-year-old retired health-care consultant from Pine, Allegheny County, said he's "disgusted" with insider politicians in Harrisburg, and believes that neither Wagner nor Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth, his other GOP primary opponent, has the leadership experience or the plan to bring Pennsylvania back to glory.
"[We need to] restore the dream of America to the people of Pennsylvania, to free them from the liberal progressive socialist policies of Gov. Tom Wolf, indeed to bring our jobs and our children back home," Mango said at a debate in January. "That's what my candidacy is about."
Like his ads, his candidacy can seem puzzling at times. He had never been on the political landscape before announcing his bid last May, his first run for public office. He spent more than two decades at McKinsey & Co. in Pittsburgh organizing and running its health-care consulting practice, and amassed personal wealth that's helped him fund his campaign. With about $3.3 million left in his campaign coffers — half as much as Wagner — he said he's traveled more than 80,000 miles across Pennsylvania, and points to polling that shows he's within striking distance of the state GOP-endorsed Wagner.
At debates, he's talked in broad terms about policy, but has released a couple of detailed plans backing them up — underscoring his main pitch to voters to "bring our jobs and our children back home."
He supports eliminating school property taxes and replacing them with income and sales taxes, and plans to lower the corporate tax rate from 9.99 percent to 3.07 percent — which he says will stimulate job growth in 24 to 36 months that will recoup the lost corporate tax revenue.
Mango has also said he thinks stimulating the economy will help alleviate the opioid crisis, asserting that in addition to empowering local communities to solve the problem and providing them with the resources to do it, helping Pennsylvania out of a "no-growth economy" will break the cycle of despair and addiction.
"I think one of the most important things we can do for folks who have been displaced by the global economy, lost their jobs, and experienced misfortune, is to get the economy growing again," Mango said in an interview. "When you have people gainfully employed and you have people feeling that they have meaning in their lives, and that they're having a positive impact on others, we take care of a good part of this issue. But we have a large number of Pennsylvanians who don't feel that way."
A graduate of West Point and a veteran of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Mango has also proposed streamlining or eliminating re-certification processes for veterans who want to re-enter into the civilian workforce.
On other issues, he's labeled himself the true conservative in the race, touting support from anti-abortion groups, opposing greater restrictions on guns, and reminding voters that he "maxed out" his donations to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He's railed on Twitter against NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem, and accuses Wagner of backing a bill that would allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice in public schools.
But on the trail and during a series of primary debates, Mango hasn't detailed many specifics about his own background, insisting only that he's spent 25 years as a business leader. His resumé indicates that he started at McKinsey in 1988 after graduating from Harvard, and retired from the company last February.
Missing from most of his public bios and LinkedIn resumé, however, is a five-year stint from 1991 to 1996 when he served as executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Institute for Transfusion Medicine, a private biotech services firm in Pittsburgh.
It was during this time that a Glassport man alleged he contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion at UPMC-Presbyterian, with blood provided by the Central Blood Bank, a subsidiary of the institute. The lawsuit was settled in 2005.
Mango confirmed his role with the institute from 1991 to 1996, but said he has no recollection of the lawsuit, and wasn't involved in the suit or the settlement.
"It's absolutely news to me, and I never oversaw that testing," Mango said. "I think, actually, during that time, to tell you the truth, that testing was outsourced to another blood collection agency somewhere in the U.S. I don't even remember. It was 20 years ago. But I was never involved in that aspect of testing whatsoever."
Although he's been on one side of a contentious primary, Mango hasn't had to play much defense. In January, he was criticized for appearing on Pastor Hyung Jin Sean Moon's YouTube show — in which the interviewer said, among other things, that parents don't want to send their kids to public schools for fear of them getting "indoctrinated into the homosexual agenda" and "transgender agenda." Mango said that if given the chance, he wouldn't change his decision to appear on the show.
"We need to understand everyone's point of view on how they think about faith," Mango said. "That's why I interviewed with him."
In a debate in late April, Wagner asked Mango for a truce — no more ads mentioning each other until the May 15 primary. Mango turned it down.
"The people of Pennsylvania think character is an issue," Mango said.