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GOP straw polls favor Scott Wagner in Pennsylvania governor race

January 10, 2018
This year's Republican candidates for Pennsylvania governor include, from left, Scott Wagner, Mike Turzai, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth.

State Sen. Scott Wagner’s campaign said Tuesday that the York County Republican handily defeated three other GOP candidates for governor in straw polls conducted by party committees over the weekend.

Wagner collected 91 of the 140 votes cast by Republican committee members in the Central, Northeast and East Central parts of the state, according to a campaign email.

“These overwhelming victories in all three straw polls demonstrate that our goal to change the culture of Harrisburg is shared by many,” the email said. “Our message that we need to replace Tom Wolf and fix PA is resonating in every part of the Commonwealth.”

State House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, came in second place with 30 votes, according to political website PoliticsPA. Former Pittsburgh health care consultant Paul Mango came in third with 17 votes, and Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth came in fourth with two votes, according to the site.

Ellsworth announced before the poll that she would ask the caucuses to exclude her from the process.

“I believe each GOP candidate for governor should make his or her case to all Republican voters in the May primary. ... An endorsement process controlled by insiders and career politicians is simply not the best course for our party,” Ellsworth said in the announcement.

Mango’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Straw polls have yet to be taken in other regions of the state, according to PoliticsPA.

“The straw polls are a small but important vetting tool for Republicans to grade candidates,” Turzai spokesman Jeff Coleman said in a statement.

“In some ways, they’re a snapshot of the way insiders view the strength of the candidates, but we take the view that the aggressive debate schedule in the weeks ahead is equally important to how Republicans view their choice to compete against Tom Wolf,” Coleman said. “Speaker Turzai has been catching up fast since announcing, and that’s reflected in his strong finish against better-funded candidates.”

The candidates have until Jan. 31 to file annual campaign finance reports, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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