Race for lieutenant governor often overlooked in Pennsylvania

By Melissa Daniels

It was the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and Pennsylvania government, like the nation, was in crisis-control mode.

Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker was in Somerset County where Flight 93 went down, heading up emergency management operations. Within nine days, President George W. Bush tapped then-Gov. Tom Ridge for a position that eventually would become secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

“It was not a time to dwell on difficulties and emotional challenges,” Schweiker said. “It was time to react, and it was time to deploy, and it was time to fight.”

So, on Oct. 5, 2001, Schweiker fulfilled his job description, the one outlined in Article IV, Section 13 of Pennsylvania’s constitution: He was inaugurated to serve out Ridge’s term as governor.

The lieutenant governor is the commonwealth’s second-in-command and first in the line of succession when the governor can no longer serve. The post requires the officeholder to serve as president of the state Senate and chair of the Board of Pardons. But the race for lieutenant governor operates on a far lower profile than that for Pennsylvania’s chief executive.

Running in the May 20 primary for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket are: former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown; Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski; state Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Canonsburg; Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith; and state Sen. Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jay Paterno announced on Friday he was dropping out of the race because he didn’t want to go through a protracted court battle regarding a challenge to his nominating petitions.

A February telephone poll of 501 voters by Harper Polling found 48 percent were undecided about the race. It had a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points.

Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley is running for re-election on Gov. Tom Corbett’s ticket without any primary challenger.

Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, considers the lieutenant governor’s race to be overlooked.

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