Democrats will have a choice for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor in 2018

Yes, voters get to choose a separate candidate for the position.

Kathi Cozzone and Aryanna Berringer

Kathi Cozzone and Aryanna Berringer

Courtesy the campaigns
Sarah Anne Hughes

If you know that Pennsylvania has a separately elected lieutenant governor, congratulations: You know more than many people.

Maybe you paid attention during civics class. Or maybe you’ve heard about Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor, Democrat Mike Stack, and the allegations that he’s verbally abused his staff and recklessly spent taxpayer money.

While state Democrats are coalescing around Gov. Tom Wolf ahead of his 2018 re-election bid, there isn’t the same level of unity to keep Stack in office.

Already, two Democrats have declared their candidacy to challenge Stack, and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman is rumored to be mulling his own entrance. No Republicans have announced their intention to run.

If it’s an office you’ve never even heard of, you may question why you should pay attention to the lieutenant governor race at all. The candidates have an answer for that.

Should Pennsylvania have a lieutenant governor?

Pennsylvania’s state constitution provides for the election of a lieutenant governor, making the commonwealth one of 18 states to do so. If you’re curious about the history, consult PennLive’s deep dive into why Pennsylvania’s 19th century statesmen (what’s good, Thaddeus Stevens) revised the constitution to provide for the separate position.

The outlet also noted, “To this day, one of the key criticisms of the post is that it’s largely a ceremonial one, apart from being able to break ties in the Senate and serving on the pardons board.” PennLive’s editorial board has even called for the state to eliminate the lieutenant governor’s office.

Candidate Aryanna Berringer, an IT project manager for Giant Eagle who lives in Murrysville, says the position is “underutilized,” explaining that the lieutenant governor’s role of chairing the Board of Pardons could be a much more important task.

She tells the story of visiting her father in jail when he was incarcerated because of a marijuana charge. Berringer was 10 and remembers seeing the shame on his face through the glass that separated them. He struggled to find work after that conviction, she said.

“We have a terrible backlog of pardons,” she told The Incline. “The only way we can get a drug charge like this taken off someone’s record is through the pardon process.”

As someone “who knows the impact that has on families,” Berringer believes the pardons board chair should also be involved in activism for juvenile justice reform, something that could have benefitted her dad.

“There’s so much more we can be doing in that particular area,” she said.