- Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Five seasoned politicians - a state senator, a state representative, a former congressman, a county commissioner and a city councilman - are vying for the Democratic nomination for the high-ranking, but low-profile office of Pennsylvania lieutenant governor.

In Tuesday’s primary election, Democratic voters will independently choose nominees for governor and lieutenant governor who will be joined as a ticket in the general election contest against the Republican Party’s ticket of Gov. Tom Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley. Both are both unopposed in their primary.

No clear front-runner has emerged among the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor: state Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia, state Rep. Brandon Neuman of Washington County, former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith and Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski.

The candidates have raised more than $100,000 each, according to campaign finance reports covering contributions and expenditures through May 5.

Stack, 50, has raised by far the most - $1.1 million through May 5, including a $100,000 loan from his mother. He spent $850,000 for TV ads that began airing last week in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other key media markets, said campaign spokesman Marty Marks.

Stack, elected to the Senate in 2000, toyed with the idea of running for governor before announcing his candidacy for lieutenant governor last fall. He’s a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard and works as a prosecutor in the judge advocate general’s office.

Also airing TV ads in selected markets was Smith, according to his campaign manager, Andrew Collier. Smith, 36, who in 2008 became the youngest person to be elected as a Bradford County commissioner, raised nearly $350,000, the second-highest total.

Critz, 52, is a former aide to the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha who won a special election to complete Murtha’s term after his death in 2010 and won a full two-year term later that year. He was ousted by Republican Keith Rothfus in 2012.

Critz’s opposition to abortion rights and other conservative stances put him at odds with some traditional Democratic allies, but campaign manager Nick Bonesso defended the candidate as “a traditional union Democrat.”

Koplinski, 44, a former lawyer for the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments in Washington, became the first to announce his candidacy for lieutenant governor in February 2013. At the Democratic State Committee’s endorsement meeting early this year, he received the most votes, but not the two-thirds majority needed for the party’s blessing.

Neuman, at 32 the youngest candidate in the field, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2010, the year after he graduated from Duquesne University Law School.

Among other things, the lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate and fills in for the governor if he or she is unable to perform those duties, chairs the state Pardons Board and serves on the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council.

The state provides the lieutenant governor a three-story house with a swimming pool at Fort Indiantown Gap - the Pennsylvania National Guard training center a half-hour’s drive from the Capitol - a state vehicle and a state security detail. The current salary is $157,765.

In March, Cawley briefly assumed the governor’s duties until Corbett emerged from anesthesia following surgery for an abdominal hernia.

In 2001, then-Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker was sworn in as governor to complete the last 15 months of Gov. Tom Ridge’s term after President George W. Bush called on Ridge to become the nation’s first homeland security director.

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