Governors Are Having A Moment — And Political Hopefuls Are Trying To Grab That Spotlight

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaks before former President Barack Obama during a campaign rally for statewide Democratic candidates on September 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Midterm election day is November 6th.  (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
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In the chasm left by the Trump administration’s chaotic approach to the coronavirus pandemic, governors have stepped into the spotlight.  

And it has accordingly boosted their profiles. From attempts to draft New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) into the presidential race, to buzz about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) becoming worthy of Joe Biden’s vice presidential shortlist, there has been a clear political upside to being in charge.

Current and likely future political candidates are taking note. 

In Kansas and Pennsylvania, Republican politicians have published their own alternative — and, in effect, useless — reopening plans.

Susan Wagle, president of the Kansas Senate and frequent agitator of Gov. Laura Kelly (D), proposed her plan on Tuesday. She is also, not coincidentally, running to fill the seat vacated by the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R). The Republican primary is August 4. 

“Susan Wagle’s Plan To Reopen The Economy Safely: Our workers, small businesses and farmers are depending on it,” her plan proclaims. 

She proposes letting Kelly’s stay-at-home order expire on May 1 and then shifting authority to county governments to decide how much to relax social distancing for their region.

The plan is dappled with Kelly criticisms, saying at one point about the scarcity of available tests that “Governor Laura Kelly needs to stop complaining and act.” It also wallops her for the technological issues the state has been having with processing an influx of unemployment claims. 

On the whole, it calls for the reopening of everything but nursing homes, buffets and large events like concerts and sports games. 

Kelly’s own plan is scheduled for release on Thursday.

Wagle, along with many of her fellow Republicans, has been criticizing Kelly for executive overreach and already tangled with her in court over an executive order banning large church gatherings. 

Something similar is happening in Pennsylvania. 

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) rolled out his reopening plan a day after Gov. Tom Wolf (D) unveiled the official one on April 23. 

Toomey, widely suspected to be gunning for the governor’s mansion in 2022 after Wolf is term-limited out, told reporters that he called Wolf and urged him to look at the alternative plan for “constructive suggestions.”

Toomey’s plan would move faster than Wolf’s county-by-county approach, pushing up the dates that wide swaths of the economy could be reopened. 

Wolf said in his press conference the day after that he’s sticking with his own plan and that there are “some areas” he and the senator don’t agree on.

Toomey dismissed speculation about his gubernatorial aspirations prompted by his intervention last week, assuring reporters that he loves his job and is focused on the current moment.

Nonetheless, instead of sending the governor his recommendations in private or deferring to Wolf’s authority completely, he published his plan online for all to see. It even has its own branding: #PAStartsUpSafely, complete with a color-coordinated logo.

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