Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner came to a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon this week loaded for bear.
And Baer. More on that in a bit.
Things seemed to start well. He stopped by a press table at the Harrisburg Hilton and commented favorably on the fact that lunch was meatloaf, as opposed to chicken, of which he's had plenty in campaign travels around the state.
I told him, "Yes, we figured the same and so arranged for meatloaf."
Full disclosure, this was a bit of fake news.
But not as much as what was to come.
Wagner said Gov. Wolf doesn't care about senior citizens "choking on school property taxes," which he, Wagner, promises to eliminate.
(To be clear, he promises to eliminate property taxes, not senior citizens.)
He said Wolf hides from the people and the press and is trying to "slither" away from an education fight.
And he lashed out at the media, saying it failed to focus on issues that matter.
It was Wagnerian — with a hint of Trump.
Reading from prepared remarks to an audience of 100-plus and cable TV's PCN, Wagner waded into the settled shallow waters of his education spat with Wolf, claiming he, not Wolf, is "the real education candidate."
As proof, he said Wolf for years refused to approve increases to basic education because Wolf wouldn't sign three straight budgets passed by the GOP legislature that included such increases.
This is twisted thinking.
Wolf didn't refuse increases. He didn't veto those budgets. He allowed them to become law without his signature. And he withheld his signature on grounds they didn't include larger increases for education.
In fact, large increases in school funding were at the heart of Wolf's 2014 campaign. And prominent in his proposed budgets since.
In 2015, Wolf called for a $1 billion bump, $2 billion over four years for pre-K through 12th grade, paid for with new taxes on income, sales, and natural gas.
Over his term, he got about half the new money he sought. And almost all the new taxes were blocked by the legislature, of which Wagner was a member from 2014 until resigning his Senate seat in June.
During his tenure, Wagner said the state spends enough on education and advocated laying off 10 percent of its teachers, claiming "we'd never miss them."
Now Wagner says, if elected, he'll propose $1 billion more in school funding his first year without calling for new or increased taxes.
He'd pay for it "by tightening our belts," zero-based budgeting, selling the liquor stores, welfare reforms, eliminating some corporate tax credits, and (my personal favorite) "other cost-saving plans."
Talk about political déjà vu.
How many times have we heard pledges of huge cost savings in these same ways? How many times have government costs dropped?
While we're at it, how many pols promise lower or zero property taxes? How much have property taxes fallen?
Wagner also reprised his attack on Wolf over use of a new state funding formula favoring urban districts at a cost to rural districts IF employed with current dollars.
As to Wagner saying Wolf's hiding his education plan for a second term, if he gets one? That's easy. He'd seek more school funding and, at least, a natural gas tax.
Wagner (rightly) hit Wolf for agreeing to only one debate. There should be three.
And he scolded media for getting "distracted," not covering "things that matter," and "obsessing over everything that I may say."
And, after drawing attention to my presence, he singled me out: "Cover issues, John, like education, jobs, and taxes with that same vigor."
A longtime colleague, two seats from me at the press table, leaned over and said, "You're horrible."