Handicapping the Governor’s Race

With just a Superior Court contest on the ballot this year political action around the Commonwealth is focused on next year’s race for Governor.  Tom Corbett’s inability to govern has created a wide open race and may even have him facing a formidable primary challenger.  Latest numbers on Gov. gasbag have him at a 26% approval rating and prompted Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to jump into the race.  Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce castor launched a website recently around his probable challenge.  The conundrum for the GOP is how to keep control of the Governor’s Mansion after the Corbett debacle and against a strong field of Democratic contenders.  They also include Treasurer Rob McCord, businessman Tom Wolf, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and possible Admiral Joe Sestak.  John Hanger is a hanger-on and Max Myers’ candidacy is clouded by his involvement in a fringe religious organization (more about that in the future).

Bruce Castor is someone I’ve known for some years dating back to his time as Assistant District Attorney.  He oversaw the prosecution when a nephew’s wife was murdered.  Every year we see each other at a candlelight vigil in MontCo for families of homicide victims.  That was strained for a few years following an infamous series of emails he sent me while running for re-election as Commissioner.  His ticket mate Jim Matthews was accepting large campaign contributions from convicted felon Bob Asher and Castor had condemned Corbett for taking that dirty money when he ran against him for Attorney General (Castor and Corbett have a long history).  I asked where Bruce’s outrage was about Matthews taking Asher’s money and he responded with an email trashing Matthews.  That story wound up on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Still, I greatly respect Castor and his response to my question illustrated he still had his strong ethics and morals.  He would be a vast improvement over Corbett.

Still, Bruce Castor is a Republican with conservative ideology.  I respect the man but would support a real progressive with ethics and high morals.  For me there are three men I wouldn’t hesitate endorsing for Governor:  Sestak, Wolf and McCord.  I don’t know if Joe is prepared to enter the race but he sure sounded like a candidate while stumping for other candidates last year.  With this strong field he’s better off keeping his powder dry and waiting to challenge Sen. Toomey in a few years.

Tom Wolf is someone I met at the recent Democratic State Committee meeting.  He served as Revenue Secretary for Gov. Rendell and runs the family business in York.  Wolf ranges and stoves are the class of their field but the company hit hard times when the Bush Recession hit in 2008.  He briefly sparred with running to succeed Rendell then pulled out to save the company which he did.  He is known as a real progressive.  I hope to sit down with him in the near future and review issues and hear his vision for Pennsylvania.

I’d love to do the same with Treasurer McCord.  We had brief conversations in both Hershey and Harrisburg and his progressive credentials are well known.  He is the only Democratic candidate to have run statewide and won (twice).  He is popular and, like Wolf, able to raise the large sums needed to win a race for Governor.  He was a venture capitalist on Wall Street and has access to deep pockets.  His distinct advantage over Allyson Schwartz is he has attended both State Committee and the Progressive Summit while the Congresswoman chose to stay home.  The Party endorsement vote next January will be important and he has wined, dined and spoken with those delegates while Schwartz chose to ignore them.  I’ve covered many of their meetings and those state committee persons have long memories about who solicited their support and who did not.  He had the entire lunchtime podium and an audience of 600 progressives from 42 counties at his feet yesterday.  He was able to give his argument for being the nominee to them while all Schwartz had were some surrogates who left “Draft Allyson” flyers on the tables.  These were huge mistakes for the Congresswoman.

I’ve covered Allyson Schwartz for some years.  She last ran statewide in 2000 in the primary to run against Sen. Rick Santorum.  She came in second in a large field which was split east/west.  Ron Klink, the only western Pennsylvania candidate, swept to that nomination and proceeded to fail miserable in the general election running as an anti-choice Democrat.  Allyson Schwartz is known as a strong pro-choice, women’s rights candidate and as a champion of SCHIP.  Many progressives criticize her Wall Street money ties and consider her a corporate Democrat.  She is against single payer health care for example.

Jack Wagner may be a dark horse who enters the race if he sees an opportunity to exploit the east/west divide.  A former Auditor General, he could defeat a field composed of eastern candidates because western Pennsylvanians have been known to be extremely provincial.  They hate Philadelphians with a passion and have voted for bad candidates in the past just because they’re from the west (Dan Onorato for example).  This mentality has really hurt Democrats in the past and another anti-choice Democrat (Wagner) running statewide would mean a second Corbett term.

All in all this will be an extremely interesting race.  There is much at stake and progressives need to determine who is really a progressive and get behind that person fully to defeat Gov. Gasbag.

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