Harrisburg is a galaxy far far away for many of my listeners and I suspect for many people in the Delaware Valley. However, what goes on there has a huge impact here and in the upcoming gubernatorial race between Gov. Tom Wolf and state Sen. Scott Wagner there is an issue bubbling up that can be very consequential.
The City of Philadelphia seems poised to be first in the nation to launch supervised injection sites. These are so called "safe" injection sites where addicts could go to shoot up and be aided by medical personnel if they overdose. My read is that these sites have been met in many neighborhoods in Philadelphia with significant opposition.
Also, there is no support at this time from major Pennsylvania Democrat political figures such as Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the state's chief law enforcement officer. Shapiro is a very respected figure, and his position is that changes in federal drug laws must change before he could support what Philadelphia wants to do. Through a spokesman, Wolf has said the Philadelphia plan "presents a number of serious public health and legal concerns."
The backing of both Wolf and Shapiro is important because there is widespread agreement that the federal government would crack down on supervised injection sites. My read is that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and our new area U. S. attorney, Bill McSwain, will challenge Philadelphia. WHYY.org reports that Wolf could administratively approve a supervised injection site through a rule devised to protect public health. This would help to push back against the feds.
I think Wolf is not helping this plan because he knows it is radioactive in much of the state and would stamp him as a radical. I think he waits until he is re-elected to implement it. This whole issue is an opportunity for Wagner to link Wolf to schemes such as this and to force him to declare whether he'll ever back Philadelphia in this extreme idea. It allows Wagner to penetrate Wolf's innocuous façade and remind people of how he wanted to tax citizens using laundromats, purchasing caskets and buying a variety of other everyday items. It would link to his opposition to the death penalty and remind people that, in a second term, Wolf would not just be a kindly guy in a jeep but a guy pursuing a radical agenda.
Another local issue that could be useful to Wagner is the soda tax. I'm told by reliable sources that Republicans in Harrisburg have been waiting for primary season to end and for the initial battles over the state's budget to begin, but soon they will forcefully on a bill that has been introduced to stop local taxes placed on food and beverages such as the soda tax. I think the tax can be positioned as a job killer and an excessive intrusion of government into our lives.
I think the soda tax issue will gain more traction in the debate because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which is controlled by Democrats, will say it is constitutional. It is a court dominated by judicial activists that needs to be confronted. This is the same court that I believe overstepped its bounds in the gerrymandering cases and is poised to usurp the legislature again and tell taxpayers across the state how much more they must pay to fund school districts like the Philadelphia's. This is an opportunity for Wagner to run against this court and force Wolf to defend it.
This governor's race has tremendous consequences. Wagner would pursue and support much different policies from Wolf. Also, Pennsylvania is the ultimate swing state, and whoever controls the governor's office can turn a lot of infrastructure toward President Trump or his opponent.
If the race remains a snoozefest with vague talk about who will create more jobs or move Pennsylvania forward, then Wolf will win. Wagner must make the race about the issues that I've talked about and make it a referendum on whether things being done in Philadelphia now really reflect Pennsylvania values. If Wagner successfully frames the race that way, then he wins.