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Koplinski tops Lt. Gov. pack among progressives - abc27 WHTM

Koplinski tops Lt. Gov. pack among progressives

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

It is a crowded field of Pennsylvanians looking to be the state's next Lieutenant Governor and they crammed a ballroom in Harrisburg Saturday looking to separate themselves from the pack.

It was the Progressive Summit 2014, a confab of the more liberal Democrats.

At Saturday's debate there were people with big titles - former Congressman Mark Critz and sitting State Senator Mike Stack - and one candidate with a big name: Jay Paterno. But Brad Koplinski was the biggest hit among progressives, and he convincingly won a straw poll after the debate.

Koplinski was punchy and on-point for many of the audience questions and he struck all the popular notes for a liberal audience.

"You don't cut education," Koplinski said forcefully at one point. "It's as simple as that."

He also called for a moratorium on fracking and a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

"We've seen this happen with oil and timber and coal. They come in, they take our resources, they don't pay us what it's worth. They hurt our environment, they destroy our infrastructure, and when the asset is gone they skip town and leave us holding the bag," Koplinski said to great applause.

But how is a virtual unknown from Harrisburg successfully mixing it up? He's been getting to know every corner of the state for more than a year.

"We've been to all 67 counties. I've got a Ford Escape out front that's two years old and it has 93,000 miles on it," he said.

Koplinski, an Illinois native who came to Harrisburg to run John Kerry's presidential campaign in the Midstate, is highlighting his current position as city councilman as a strength. His message to small towns, cities and boroughs: I feel your pain and I know how to fight the state on your behalf.

"Unless you're Pittsburgh or Philadelphia the commonwealth does not listen. They really don't give a damn," Koplinski said.

But Penn State fans are now paying attention to the mostly overlooked race because Jay Paterno is in it.

"I have a passion for public service," Paterno told the crowd on Saturday. "I spent over two decades as an educator and a coach."

Beating a Paterno in PA will not be easy, though Paterno's debate performance was often rambling and less punchy than Koplinski's. Paterno got less than one percent of the straw poll vote.

"Honestly, the name Paterno does cut both ways," Koplinski said. "We'll have to see how it goes.

It's more famous than Koplinski, although there are 884,000 Polish Pennsylvanians and we think that's an asset in itself," he said with a chuckle.

What does he mean the Paterno name "cuts both ways?"

Koplinski hesitated and then said, "There are Pitt fans and there are Temple fans."

Left unsaid, but no doubt valid according to political insiders, Jay Paterno will get votes because of his last name, but he'll likely lose votes from people who resent a guy jumping into a race at the last minute thinking he can win just because his father was one of the most famous Pennsylvanians ever.

Koplinski acknowledged that he has been on the stump for more than a year sharpening his message and he credited Paterno for showing up just days after announcing his candidacy.

Koplinski hopes his hard work and retail politics can trump the Paterno name and the connections of the others. We'll find out on May 20. Who would he like to see on the top of the ticket? He's too smart to answer that one.

"Everybody has their strengths and every one of them's gonna be better than Tom Corbett," he said.

Whoever's on the top of the ticket, Koplinski hopes his name is on the bottom because he's certain the Democrats will be taking back the Governor's Mansion come November.

Dr. Brenda Alton, a Harrisburg minister and former aide to Mayor Linda Thompson, is also running for lieutenant governor.

The Midstate could figure prominently in both races. Hershey's John Hanger won the progressive straw poll in Harrisburg over the weekend.

York businessman Tom Wolf has zoomed to the top position in a series of recent polls and after running a series of television ads across the state.

 

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