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Why’s Pennsylvania's Lt. Governor Behaving So Badly?

Mike Stack is under investigation by the state’s inspector general. The results could impact the 2018 election.

Lieutenant Governor Mike Sack
Pennsylvania Lt. gov. Mike Stack
The lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania doesn’t have many official duties. Maybe that’s one reason Mike Stack, the current holder of that office, has gotten himself into trouble.

Stack and his wife Tonya are alleged to have screamed at and otherwise verbally abused members of his state police security detail, as well as other state employees who cook and clean at their official residence. There have been complaints that troopers were asked to turn on flashers and sirens to speed up trips in nonemergency situations. State Rep. Kevin Boyle claims that Tonya Stack flipped him off at a public event and threw a cup of soda at him. Stack’s office announced in May that she has entered a residential treatment facility to deal with a “difficult mental health issue.”

Before the extent of Tonya Stack’s difficulties became known, Gov. Tom Wolf had pulled Mike Stack’s security detail and placed restrictions on staff working at his official household. “I do not delight in this decision,” Wolf wrote to his lieutenant governor. He also called for the state inspector general to look into the allegations against Stack. But there may not be much more Wolf can do. Stack has spurned any talk that he might step down, and there are no hints that he has engaged in illegal behavior. 

As lieutenant governor, the 53-year-old Stack is provided with an official residence near the state Capitol. Despite that, he has billed the state for overnight stays at hotels in Philadelphia, even though he has a home in that city. In response to media reports about this, Stack has returned some of the money.

Still, all that negative attention hasn’t stopped Stack from vowing to run for re-election next year. In Pennsylvania, the governor and lieutenant governor run together in the fall, but are nominated separately in primaries. Stack, who served 14 years in the Pennsylvania Senate, was not close to Wolf before their political fates were bound together. And they aren’t any closer now. 

Some previous lieutenant governors have been given jobs of real substance, such as taking a lead role on energy policy or running emergency management. “Guess how many assignments Stack got?” says Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College. “Zero. For me, that’s always a telltale sign.”

It’s hard to see Wolf running alongside Stack in 2018. If he decides not to, the governor will have to find a political ally of his own to stand against Stack in the primary next year. If he goes that route, he runs the risk of angering Philadelphia’s Democratic machine, which Stack is part of and Wolf, a former businessman, is decidedly not. 

That’s why, for both men, the question of what the inspector general finds will be crucial. 

Alan Greenblatt is the editor of Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @AlanGreenblatt.
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