When Paul Mango was at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he had calculus six days a week.
“I hope sitting here and listening to me is less painful than calculus at West Point on a Saturday morning,” the Republican primary candidate for governor joked before a crowd of Pitt students Monday night.
Mango — who is currently running against two other declared opponents for the Republican nomination for governor, including Pitt alumna Laura Ellsworth — made his case to about 40 Pitt students about why he should replace incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf in 2018. All attendees of the event had been invited personally by either the College Republicans or the Students for Liberty, making it an intimate gathering. Mango began his speech with a jab at Wolf.
“Who knows my nickname for our current governor? Thomas the Tax Engine,” Mango said of the Democratic governor.
Mango, a West Point and Harvard Business School grad, has not been in politics long. He spent most of his life after serving in the army as director of the business consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Mango used his experience with business to justify why he felt that Pennsylvania needed a new, business-centered governor.
“Not enough people are talking about growth of the economy or businesses,” Mango said. “I hope to be considered the growth candidate in this race.”
Mango’s appearance was scheduled by Pitt College Republicans. Three of the club’s leaders attended the event, dressed in formal wear. Lorenzo Riboni, the vice president of the political club, had a clear reason for organizing the event.
“As a club we don’t support a candidate until the primaries are over, but right now we wanted the club to get to see what they’re voting for,” Riboni said.
Riboni, who is a junior studying communications, said the club also hopes to bring fellow Republican candidate Scott Wagner to speak at the University. Wagner is polling 29 points ahead of Mango — second in the race at 16 percent — according to a late September internal poll from Wagner’s campaign.
Mango’s presentation was short and to the point, lasting a little over twenty minutes. He laid out his platform in five points — economic growth, eradicating drug overdose, affordable health care, improving education and lowering the state’s debt to the federal government.
Aside from his five-point platform, much of Mango’s speech centered on his criticisms of Wolf’s term as governor.
“We literally have a liberal progressive socialist governor,” Mango said. “His fundamental belief is that the biggest social injustice we face is income inequality. Whereas I believe that economic immobility is the biggest social injustice.”
Mango said he plans to encourage economic mobility by working on education and job production.
“I want to focus on vocations and trades, and I would want them to play a much bigger degree in training the future generations,” he said. “All work is good work, all work has dignity.”
Mango said he plans to lower the cost of healthcare by re-evaluating government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and plans to improve education by offering parents more options for their children’s education.
Mango’s speech comes about one year before gubernatorial elections are set to take place Nov. 6, 2018. Many of the event attendees said that they attended the event primarily to receive information about Mango as a candidate.
Christopher Greathouse, a recent Pitt undergrad and current graduate student in the Swanson School of Engineering, said he was unaware of many of the candidates’ positions — including Mango’s — prior to the event.
“I mostly just want to see what his position does and what he’s hoping to change,” Greathouse said.
Jeremy Reiff, a sophomore studying physics and mathematical economics, came to the event to see somebody “up close and personal” who might be the next governor. Mango’s presentation helped him to narrow down his options.
“After hearing him speak, I don’t think I’m gonna vote for him. Scott Wagner just aligns better with my ideologies,” Reiff said.
For a number of students, such as Reiff, Mango’s speech was informative for voters planning to cast a ballot in the Pennsylvania Republican primaries. Mango ended his speech by appealing to his younger audience.
“My biggest fear is that your generation and the generation after that will not still have [economic] opportunity,” Mango said. “That’s the principle reason I’m doing this.”