Democratic Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and Republican businessman Jeff Bartos met at WPXI on Saturday for the first and only scheduled debate between the candidates for lieutenant governor.
Fetterman is running with Gov. Tom Wolf, and Bartos is running with Republican Scott Wagner.
Moderator Katherine Amenta of WPXI asked them about a variety of issues, including recreational marijuana, how to prevent school shootings, the death penalty, education funding, the opioid crisis, and the state’s infrastructure. The most notable question posed to Bartos and Fetterman was about the job they’ve both wanted for months: Why should the role of lieutenant governor exist?
“I don’t think we should eliminate the office of lieutenant governor, so long as we can make it such that the governor and lieutenant governor have the best possible opportunity to be a cohesive working unit,” said Bartos. He said he believes that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor should be able to run on the same ticket in the primaries. Under Pennsylvania’s current system the candidates run separately and then primary winners team up for the general election.
Fetterman wants to expand the current duties of the office, specifically by focusing on the lieutenant governor’s role as Chair of the Board of Pardons. “I think the lieutenant governor’s office is very critical in Pennsylvania. And it’s been an underutilized and undervalued office,” said Fetterman. “I would like to see its role fully expanded and appreciated, especially in regards to criminal justice reform. The people who belong in prison, will remain in prison. But we need to make sure the people shouldn’t be in there are given a second chance, and that starts with a pardon,” Fetterman said. He’d like to create brick-and mortar-locations where people can get help navigating the pardon system, and streamline the process.
Here’s where the candidates stand on other issues:
Bartos: “Scott and I both are opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana. We’re opposed to it for a number of reasons...primarily because we simply do not have enough data yet on the major health consequences and public health consequences that citizens in Pennsylvania could suffer [from] if we legalize this drug recreationally.” Bartos said he is in favor of the use of medical marijuana.
Fetterman: “When I ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, I was the only candidate running for legalization. In fact, I would say, ‘Hey, let’s go "full Colorado" here in Pennsylvania.’ There’s a small area of difference between myself and Gov. Wolf on that matter, but I do believe...Gov. Wolf supports decriminalizing it, because marijuana laws are disproportionately impactful on people of color and communities of color.”
The Death Penalty
Bartos: “As governor, [Scott Wagner] will lift [Gov. Wolf’s] moratorium on capital punishment as soon as he can. With the most heinous crimes -- when we see what happens on school grounds and when we see certain people slaughtering children -- they deserve the death penalty. And to take that away...in my view is wrong.”
Fetterman: “I fully support my running mate’s position and views with respect to the death penalty. Society as a whole, we’re beginning to look at and examine what can we do from a criminal justice reform perspective. This ‘death by incarceration’ even, I think, needs to be taken a look at and to see what changes to be made to minimize the people that truly belong in our state prisons.”
The Opioid Crisis
Bartos: “This is not a Democrat problem, a Republican problem or an independent problem. So I’m not going to fault Gov. Wolf for anything that’s happened over the last four years, except that he came late to the issue. That failure to lead earlier on is a problem...We can do better. Our plan brings real innovation to addressing this problem, we have public-private partnerships in our plan, we have a pay for sucess program. Gov. Wolf had a chance to take a meaningful chance in the right direction. He could have signed the forumarly bill, he vetoed that legislation.”
Fetterman: “I’m really proud of my running mate for a lot of reasons. He’s declared a public health emergency here in Pennsylvania. Scott Wagner’s plan to combat opioids has a major fatal flaw in that he would strip Medicaid expansion from the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians...how on earth can you work on overcoming your addiction if you don’t even have access to healthcare?”