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TV ad opens up new line of attack in GOP gubernatorial race

April 5, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango opened up a new line of attack against Republican rival Scott Wagner, airing a statewide TV ad that digs into Wagner’s business dealings, child support case and violations in the waste-hauling business.

Mango’s sharp-elbowed ad, which began airing Wednesday, calls Wagner a slumlord, a deadbeat dad and a sleazy bail bondsman, and takes a slap at how he runs his $75 million waste-hauling company, calling him toxic and greedy.

It also raises the prospect that another tough attack ad is coming.

“And coming soon, violent Wagner,” the narrators closes, over a video clip from last year when Wagner grabbed a camera from a campaign tracker working for a liberal political opposition group.

The ad ends with the caption “violent Wagner accused of brutal assault.” However, Wagner was not charged in the incident and the campaign tracker did not appear to suffer more than a minor finger injury.

Mango’s campaign said its 30-second ad began airing on stations in Pennsylvania’s six media markets, now less than six weeks until the May 15 primary election for the nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s re-election bid.

Wagner’s campaign said Thursday he has done nothing wrong and that “airing this despicable ad with false attacks” shows Mango is desperate.

Wagner, a state senator since 2014, was endorsed by the party in the primary race, which includes longtime commercial litigation lawyer Laura Ellsworth from suburban Pittsburgh.

Up to this point, Wagner and Mango have focused their attacks largely on who is more conservative, although Wagner has jabbed at Mango’s past as a health care systems consultant, saying he championed Obamacare and out-sourcing jobs.

Many of the TV ad’s claims against Wagner have arisen in his previous Senate campaigns.

Citing court filings from the 1980s, the ad accuses Wagner of “renting apartments with termites, no heat and leaking water” and, as a bail bondsman, certifying the bail for a man accused of sex crimes against a minor. While out on bail, the man was charged with similar crimes and later pleaded guilty.

Wagner’s campaign said it is ridiculous to suggest that Wagner was complicit in crimes committed by the bail recipient and that a former tenant sued Wagner — and lost — because she was evicted.

Wagner’s long-running child support and alimony case, following his 2008 separation from his wife, also made it into the ad.

A judge found in 2012 that Wagner had an “arrearage” of $800,000 in a case stemming from a dispute over Wagner’s income that should be considered eligible for calculating his support obligations. The judge’s opinion noted that Wagner had made payments going back to the separation.

Wagner’s campaign said he had paid child support on time and his lawyer in the case told the York Daily Record in 2013 that the sides ultimately settled the case in a confidential agreement.

In a slap at Wagner’s management of waste hauler Penn Waste, the ad said “toxic Wagner was cited 20 times breaking environment laws, including water pollution.” The citations going back to 2001 mostly involved leaking trucks, while one involved polluting a storm water retention pond.

However, a review of a state database of violations by other waste haulers did not show Penn Waste’s violations to be unusual or excessive.

The ad also brings up Penn Waste’s 2004 lawsuit against an 84-year-old woman who didn’t pay municipal trash service bills for more than two years. She didn’t have the money, she told reporters at the time, and took her garbage to an incinerator or landfill rather than putting it on her curb.

Wagner defended the lawsuit.

“I do render a service whether she puts trash out or not,” he told a York newspaper in 2004. “I still have to drive my truck by her house.”

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