Lt. governor candidates John Fetterman, Jeff Bartos point out sharp differences
Lieutenant governor candidates John Fetterman and Jeff Bartos pointed out the sharp differences in their campaigns in a debate Saturday in Pittsburgh, covering their opposing views on abortion, the death penalty, marijuana legalization and other hot-button issues.
Fetterman, 49, the Democratic mayor of Braddock, cast himself and his running mate, Gov. Tom Wolf, as allies to unions and protectors of women’s rights.
Bartos, 46, a businessman from outside Philadelphia, said he and Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner are focused on cutting taxes and spurring economic growth.
The candidates politely showcased their views in the sole scheduled debate of the campaign at WPXI-TV’s studio in Pittsburgh. The debate, moderated by anchor Katherine Amenta, was scheduled to air at 7:30 p.m.
The exchange followed a single debate Monday between Wolf and Wagner that was moderated by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, who was widely criticized for talking more than either candidate and sharing his own views on debate topics.
Fetterman attacked Wagner more than Bartos in his remarks. He criticized Wagner for a 2014 comment in which Wagner, then a state senator, said, “there was a gentleman by the name of Hitler, he was about power and control … the union situation is about power and control.” Wagner later apologized for the remarks.
“To any union member, brothers and sisters watching, any former union members, retired or otherwise — my running mate, Governor Wolf, protects unions in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said. “Scott Wagner, if he was elected, would destroy unions.”
Bartos, in turn, criticized Wolf for accepting campaign donations from unions during an education discussion.
“We certainly have our differences with the teachers’ unions,” Bartos said. “(Wolf) is owned by the public sector unions. The teachers union calls the shots. Governor Wolf works for the teachers unions. We will work for the students of Pennsylvania, the parents of Pennsylvania and we will work for the teachers of Pennsylvania.”
Fetterman acknowledged a difference of opinion between himself and Wolf over legalizing recreational marijuana, which state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, has proposed. Fetterman supports legalization while Wolf has said the state isn’t ready.
Bartos said that while he and Wagner support medical marijuana, he believes not enough studies have been done on the health risks of marijuana to justify recreational legalization. He said that arguments for legalization that cite the potential tax benefits are misguided, saying the state should be focused on cutting spending rather than bringing in new revenue.
The candidates said both tickets want to reform the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania, which has the third-highest incarceration rate in the Northeast. The lieutenant governor serves as chairman of the state’s Board of Pardons.
Bartos supported Wagner’s call to re-instate the death penalty, while Fetterman supported Wolf’s moratorium on the death penalty. Bartos cited Wagner’s call for a mandatory death penalty for anyone who kills someone on school grounds and said Wagner would lift Wolf’s moratorium as soon as he could if he won election.
Fetterman said Wolf is a “firewall” against the state General Assembly’s efforts to limit abortion. He cited Wolf’s veto of Senate Bill 3, which would have made abortions illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy instead of the current 24 weeks, and would have restricted the use of a common second-trimester procedure known as dilation and evacuation.
Bartos noted Wagner voted for Senate Bill 3 as a state senator and would support the same measure again.
Wesley Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wesley at 412-380-5676, email@example.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.