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Allegheny

Mango touts military credentials in entering Pa. gubernatorial race

| Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 2:36 p.m.
Paul Mango
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Paul Mango
Paul Mango announces his gubernatorial bid at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Paul Mango announces his gubernatorial bid at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

Paul Mango, a former health care consultant, focused on his military credentials as he formally announced his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination Wednesday evening in Pittsburgh.

“I am ready to serve,” Mango told the crowd of supporters at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland.

He said the choice of venue for his campaign kick-off speech was no coincidence, further emphasizing his intention to play up his military background as he seeks support for the 2018 election. Seals for the branches of the U.S. military hung high on the wall during his speech. A group of laborers donning “Helmets to Hardhats” T-shirts were mixed in with the crowd.

Mango, 58, a Pine Township resident, is a West Point graduate and former 82nd Airborne paratrooper. His campaign website prominently displays a photo of him in his cadet uniform receiving his diploma from President Ronald Reagan. The website includes a “recruitment center” where volunteers can “enlist” with his campaign.

Mango spent much of his military service stationed in Europe during the Cold War. He later received an MBA from Harvard University. Until earlier this year, he served as director of the McKinsey & Company consulting firm's Pittsburgh office.

This is Mango's first foray into elected politics, and he blames politicians in Harrisburg for the problems facing the state. He said he would be a “conservative leader” in his approach to Pennsylvania government.

“We can no longer be about big government as usual. If we are, Pennsylvania will lose,” he said.

He dinged Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's agency consolidation proposal.

“Combining a couple departments and using a couple catchy slogans is not my idea of reform,” Mango said.

Wolf proposed the plan after it was recommended by Mango's consulting firm, which performed contract work for the administration late last year.

Mango has been a reliant contributor to Republican politicians.

In 2015, he gave thousands of dollars to the Right to Rise super PAC, which supported Jeb Bush's presidential campaign, and he later donated smaller amounts to the presidential campaigns of Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.

He has donated thousands of dollars to Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and congressmen. In March, he gave $25,000 to the Republican State Committee.

Mango is expected to spend at least a couple million dollars of his personal wealth on his campaign.

His primary campaign will be guided by veteran campaigners David Urban, Donald Trump's Pennsylvania operative, and prominent GOP consultant John Brabender, who has worked with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and former Gov. Tom Corbett.

Mango is running as a political outsider in a field that could be dominated by elected officials.

So far, the primary field is Mango and state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County. House Speaker Mike Turzai is “strongly considering” a bid and is expected to make his plans known this summer. Other Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, are rumored to be considering a run.

Prior to the event, three leading House Democrats said Mango needs to answer questions on whether he supports Republican-backed health care proposals in Washington and a budget proposal from Republicans in Harrisburg.

Mango walked past reporters who wanted to interview him after his speech.

Mango's campaign kickoff tour will continue Thursday with stops in the Scranton area and in southcentral Pennsylvania.

Wolf is seeking re-election next year.

Kevin Zwick is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2856, kzwick@tribweb.com or via Twitter @kevinjzwick.

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