Tom Wolf Versus Tom Corbett in November

Tom Wolf cruised to an easy victory today in the Democratic primary for Governor.  With incumbent Tom Corbett seeing the lowest approval ratings of any Governor in the nation this appears that Mr. Wolf of York will be the Commonwealth’s next Chief Executive.  He began a run for Governor four years ago then withdrew in order to save the family firm as the recession hit it hard.  He bought The Wolf Organization back and expanded it into kitchen cabinets.  He found skilled Amish craftsmen in Indiana to manufacture them and coupled them with the established line of high end stoves and ranges which made Wold famous.

Pouring $10 million of his own and borrowed funds he went on TV early and often and quickly buried his team of rivals.  Getting well over %0% in a four way race is impressive.

State Sen. Mike Stack has a wide lead in the race to share the ticket with Wolf.  Rep. Brendan Boyle has been declared the winner of the 13th CD race.  I’m deeply disappointed that Sen. Daylin Leach ran poorly in this election but the fact he lives outside the District (even if it’s only across the street) probably hurt his chances.  53% of the 13th lies in Northeast Philly, Boyle’s home turf.

Wolf Woos Them In Allentown

With a week left in the 2014 Gubernatorial primary races it appears the fall campaign will pit incumbent, embattled Gov. Tom Corbett versus Tom Wolf.  Polls have shown the York businessman with a commanding lead for months.  I chatted briefly with him Friday night at an event in Allentown and he said their internal polling has him over 40%.  I asked how he thought the undecideds would break out and he said their polling also shows that most of these people aren’t off year primary voters so he doesn’t feel they’ll affect the race.

Tom Wolf photo DSCN3341_zpscdcb48d4.jpg

That’s interesting because he means he’s likely to go over 50% in a four way race, three if you discount Katie McGinty who is polling just 2%.  Allyson Schwartz ran a pitiful race in which she barely left southeastern Pennsylvania and was last to be on television.  By the time she woke up and started serious campaigning the race was over.  Rob McCord’s ads are backfiring tremendously and are actually hurting him more than they’re hurting Wolf.  The Wolf campaign has deftly and effectively countered all of the attacks against them.  McCord appears to be a desperate candidate making desperate claims in an attempt to win at the close of the race.   It isn’t working.

Rob McCord photo DSCN3209_zpsc5697754.jpg

On the GOP side Corbett, recognized as the most vulnerable Governor in the country, will soundly defeat challenger Bob Guzzardi.  His ads are extremely fact challenged and I expect the Wolf team to dissect them once Labor Day rolls around.  Corbett cannot escape some simple facts:  $2.5 billion has been siphoned or cut from K12 public education and the state ranks near the bottom in job creation under his leadership.  He claims to have created 150,000 private sector jobs but neglects to mention the 20,000 teachers he threw out of work and the fact those job numbers lag behind almost every other state.  His inability to work even with members of his own Party in the House and Senate, his infamous “just close your eyes” statement on mandatory ultrasounds and other famous quotes will all come back to haunt him in the fall.  He is Dead Governor Walking.

Allsyon Schwartz photo DSCN3210_zpse808ef71.jpg

The Summit Debate

Six Democratic candidates for Governor debated last evening at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit here in Harrisburg.  Jack Wagner jumped into the race too late to participate.  Jo Ellen Litz’s comments about growing up in a hunting family and eating wild game resulted in many squirrel jokes in the lobby afterwards.  And here I thought she only ate chocolate!  There was no mention from the other candidates about her anti-choice positions.  No one went after Katie McGinty for her close ties to fracking either.  All in all it was a rather collegial discussion more than a debate.  Most of these candidates obviously like one another.

Jo Ellen Litz photo DSCN3270_zps810d3709.jpg

Jo Ellen Litz

Following a question on fracking (they don’t support the official Democratic Party position for a complete moratorium) a large group stood up in the center of the ballroom holding signs saying “Ban Fracking Now.”

Rob McCord photo DSCN3265_zps99999110.jpg

Rob McCord

John Hanger was clearly the most liberal candidate repeatedly saying he’d legalize marijuana to raise revenues and save costs.  McGinty turned the common sense gun safety issue (I loved everyone using a term I coined) into a discussion of her renewable energy record as DEP Secretary.   She appeared to be a one trick pony.

Katie McGinty photo DSCN3252_zpsc19fec1e.jpg

Katie McGinty

John Hanger photo DSCN3264_zps4ebc3a56.jpg

John Hanger

Wolf was also clearly progressive and McCord raised some eyebrows when he mentioned pragmatism instead of progressivism at one point.

Tom Wolf photo DSCN3261_zps360e8240.jpg

Tom Wolf

I spent the day at a campaign field training seminar put on by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (more on that later) so by the time the debate began both my video camera and iPhone batteries were low.  I did manage to capture a considerable amount of video.  I expect to see a lot of Allyson Schwartz’s comments about running a women’s health clinic this fall if she is the nominee.

Allyson Schwartz photo DSCN3256_zpsfddf8c7f.jpg

Allyson Schwartz

Update:  John Hanger won the straw poll at 31.5% and the others as follows:  McCord 24%, Wolf 22.8%, McGinty 10.9%, Schwartz 9.4%, Litz 0.4% and Jack Wagner 0.1%.  None of the above received 0.7%.  Allyson Schwartz hasn’t attended either of these Summits since she announced except for appearing at this debate.  Only Hanger and McCord attended the Keystone Progress fund raiser following the debate and that was noticed by many of those in attendance.

The room was packed and, all in all, the debate was a two hour live show on PCN showcasing progressive issues and values.  In that regard I thought it a huge success.

Gov Race Heating Up

One man in, one man out.  For six months I’ve been surmising that Pittsburgh’s Jack Wagner would jump into the Governor’s race.  This he did by beginning to circulate nominating petitions.  Since the state is extremely parochial when voting in Democratic primaries the fact there was no candidate from the west left that door wide open for a Wagner to jump into.  Meanwhile Max Myers, the radical Pentecostal preacher, left the race because he cannot raise any money.

New polls show Tom Wolf running away with the vote.  The election remains almost three months away and anything can happen but his blitz of media ads has established himself as the man to beat.  The Wolf TV ads are tremendously well done and are defining him positively in the minds of voters.  One poll has him at 40% and the other at 36%.  Those are enough to win in a large field.

I spoke with John Hanger at the recent Democratic State Committee meeting and he said he was remaining in the race despite low poll numbers and lagging fund raising because he felt he could get 15% of the vote and win with that.  These polls show him to be a non-factor.  Heck, they should Rob McCord and Allyson Schwartz to be non-factors.

Yesterday Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC endorsed Congresswoman Schwartz.  McCord has many major labor endorsements.  Regardless Wolf is running away with this race.  We’ll see how firm those numbers are when the other two major players get on TV.  Wolf has the money to outspend his rivals however.  Schwartz is burning through money paying staff.

Tom Wolf has been my number one choice since he announced (I also like Rob McCord).  At the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit a year ago I was one of only two participants who voted for him in the straw poll.  I suspect he’ll have a lot more support there tomorrow evening when the candidates debate.  I’ll be there.

McCord Leads Dems But No Endorsement

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party held its endorsement meeting yesterday amidst some fireworks between two of its prominent members but decided not to endorse in either the Gubernatorial or Lt. Governor races.  The large fields of candidates made it unlikely that any could gather the two thirds necessary to earn the coveted, but doomed, recognition.

An endorsement would mean that no State Committee member could openly support another candidate.  Though this seems to be significant recent endorsements have been the kiss of death for candidates in primaries.

Rob McCord came out of the vote as the leading candidate.  Take away Allyson Schwartz’s 49 votes from the Bob Brady controlled Philadelphia delegation and she had almost no other support.  This is a direct result of her ignoring the body at all three meetings last year, even one in her own backyard.  State Committee people like to see major candidates at their functions, be wined, dined and schmoozed and able to meet them and test their mettle.  They also remember who ignored them at endorsement time.

I asked John Hanger, trailing the field behind everyone but Katie McGinty, if he has a chance to win.  He seems to think so even though the three front runners will be on television heavily.  Jo Ellen Litz couldn’t even gather any of the three votes from her home county and got zero votes in balloting.  Max Myers, a Pentecostal minister pretending to be a progressive couldn’t even find anyone to nominate him.  McGinty’s poor showing also reflected her absence from meetings.  If these Committee people can’t get to see you and chat with you at some point they won’t vote for you.

Democrats also unanimously passed a resolution supporting labor unions.  The Koch Brothers have come to the Commonwealth trying to change the law so that union dues cannot automatically be deducted from paychecks.  This is a blatant attempt to weaken unions.  These deductions are actually negotiated in union contracts and are voluntarily allowed by each member who must sign a card allowing the deduction.  They cannot be used for political purposes under law.

This meeting was held at the opulent Hotel Hershey instead of the Hershey Lodge.  The NRA is ensconced at the Lodge while running its huge outdoors and gun show at the Farm Show Arena.  The two groups would not have mixed well.  As a result the meeting room for this meeting was rather small and very crowded.  Some observers had to watch from the hallway.  A lot of time was uselessly wasted at the beginning of the long meeting as each regional caucus chair stroked the Chairman’s ego with blessings and gifts.  I was waiting for one of them to kneel down and kiss his ring.

McCord did hold an impromptu press session during the counting of votes after the first ballot:

He and Jonathon Saidel, a candidate for Lt. Governor four years ago, got into it at a caucus meeting when a McCord staffer was denied entrance to the meeting.  They had to be separated before fists landed.  Again, this was ridiculous because, according to the DNC Charter ALL Party meetings are mandated to be open.  Since PA Democrats keep excluding people they keep having problems.  When will they ever learn?

Photos are beneath the fold:

 Allyson Schwartz photo DSCN3202_zps1e6609d5.jpgwidth=300

Rob McCord photo DSCN3207_zpsd3dfdb3f.jpgwidth=300

Rob McCord photo DSCN3209_zpsc5697754.jpgwidth=300

Allsyon Schwartz photo DSCN3210_zpse808ef71.jpgwidth=300

PCCC Endorses Daylin Leach in PA-13

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has formally endorsed State Sen. Daylin Leach for Congress.  He is running in PA-13 to succeed Allyson Schwartz who s running for Governor.  Daylin is one of the most liberal members of the state legislature and has led on progressive issues both while serving in the House and Senate.

From the PCCC:

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is endorsing Daylin Leach for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 13th District, calling Leach a “game changer” and praising his leadership on popular progressive issues such as expanding Social Security benefits, raising the minimum wage, and making college more affordable.

“Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren have proven that bold progressives in Congress can change the national conversation. Daylin is one of those game changers,” said Adam Green, PCCC co-founder. “When Wall Street front group Third Way attacked Elizabeth Warren and Social Security, Daylin could have remained silent — especially since his outgoing Congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz, was a Third Way Chair. Instead he denounced Third Way and demonstrated the kind of clarity and bold leadership we need in Congress.”

In response to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Third Way President Jon Cowan and Third Way Senior Vice President for Policy Jim Kessler attacking popular progressive ideas, Leach told Huffington Post:

“I found the editorial appalling, quite frankly. Social Security literally lifted up entire generations of senior citizens out of poverty. I support Elizabeth Warren’s proposals [to expand benefits] and I would not consider myself a Third Way type of candidate in any respect.”

This week, Leach joined the PCCC and progressive candidates from across the country to launch a joint petition calling on Republicans to support raising the minimum wage, a key economic issue ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections.

Tomorrow’s national endorsement and fundraising email to PCCC members is copied below. The PCCC is fundraising for Leach’s campaign from it’s membership base of over 2,000 members in PA-13, more than 29,000 members in Pennsylvania, and nearly 1 million members across the country.

During the 2012 election cycle, the PCCC members raised over 2.7 million dollars for candidates through 250,000 small-dollar donations including hundreds of thousands of dollars for multiple House campaigns. PCCC members made over 2 million calls to voters for progressive candidates. Over 30 PCCC-endorsed campaigns won, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for U.S. Senate and Mark Takano (D-CA), Alan Grayson (D-FL), and Raul Ruiz (D-CA) for Congress.

PCCC, DFA Attack Schwartz’s Wall Street Connections

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee today attacked Gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz for her ties to Third Way which attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren yesterday.  Third Way, for which the Congresswoman acts as a Co-Chair, is funded largely by major Wall Street firms.  Sen. Warren is known for her opposition to Wall Street and the Too Big To Fail banks which crashed our economy in 2008.  Democracy For America joined the attacks on Schwartz and candidate John Hanger has also chimed in.  

From the PCCC:

Wall Street is trying to marginalize Elizabeth Warren, and we need to bolster her.

Third Way — a Wall Street-funded group that poses as a “progressive” think tank — blasted Warren and her bold economic agenda yesterday in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

They wrote that Warren’s “economic populism [is] disastrous for Democrats,” including the growing consensus that we must expand — not cut — Social Security benefits.

Shockingly, Rep. Allyson Schwartz is Honorary Co-Chair of this group that’s attacking Elizabeth Warren!

Can you call Allyson Schwartz today and tell her to drop her affiliation with Third Way immediately? Click here for the number.

Third Way receives a ton of money from Wall Street, but they don’t publicize this on their website or in their attacks on Warren’s economic agenda that stands up for the little guy.

Polling shows Warren’s ideas are popular in red, purple, and blue states. In fact, expanding Social Security is popular by 2 to 1 in Kentucky and 3 to 1 in Texas!

Third Way has no grassroots support — they are just a tool for Wall Street and big corporations to attack popular, progressive ideas.

DFA’s Jim Dean had this to say:

“Pennsylvanians already have an unpopular Governor who supports cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, they don’t need another one who does the same thing by providing cover to the Wall Street-funded front group Third Way.  If Allyson Schwartz opposes cutting the benefits that seniors and working families rely on and earn with every single paycheck, now is the time for her to say so publicly and resign from her position at Third Way.”

John Hanger:

“Third Way’s attack in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on Elizabeth Warren, Bill DeBlasio, and other Democrats who are fighting for working people was misguided and unacceptable. Sen. Warren has captured Americans’ imagination and Bill DeBlasio won the mayoralty of New York City because they effectively and unapologetically challenge the political elites and the big money interests just as we are doing in our People’s Campaign for Governor in Pennsylvania. Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz can undermine Third Way’s unacceptable attack on good Democrats and important ideas by resigning as Third Way’s Honorary Co-chair. I hope Congresswoman Schwartz joins my call to strongly disavow and rebuke this right wing attack on Senator Warren, Mayor-elect DeBlasio, and progressive policies.”

I’ve been saying all along that as much as I admire Congresswoman Schwartz, she is no progressive.  Yesterday’s attack on these progressive Democrats and her leadership position of Third Way should disqualify Schwartz from consideration by liberals and progressives.  In addition to Hanger Rob McCord and Tom Wolf are strong progressives in the race for Governor.

Sen. Warren today sent a letter demanding that Wall Street firms be forced to open their records about how much they fund think tanks and which ones they finance.

Gasbag Kicks Off Gubernatorial Race

Gov. Gasbag kicked off his re-election campaign and is trying to message it as “Promises Kept.”  Yes, to the corporations and energy companies who bankroll his campaigns perhaps but not to the people.  He has kicked hundreds of thousands off health care, cut education by a billion bucks, channeled another $1.5 billion from public schools to charters, cut business taxes while cutting your services and illustrated a complete inability to work with the legislature.  Add to all that his affinity for putting his foot in his mouth every time it opens.

Remember “they just have to close their eyes?”  My advice for the Corbett campaign is this:  just close your eyes when the election returns begin rolling in next November.

A hundred protesters greeted the Guv in Philadelphia yesterday.  Eight Democrats have already greeted him in the race.  Corbett is dead Governor walking, an incumbent with zero chance of re-election.  Polish up that resume Tom and begin greasing up for the screwing the voters are about to give you.

Meanwhile Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown showed a marked weakness Tuesday.  With just nominal independent opposition he failed to garner as many votes as he did in 2009.  His vaunted campaign team told the Express Times they had 220 volunteers knock on 120,000 doors Tuesday and 78,000 over the weekend.  Did anyone bother to do the math before publishing these ludicrous claims?  That means each canvasser hit 545 doors or 45/hour for twelve hours without a break.  Give me a break.

Schwartz Officially Enters Gubernatorial Race

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz officially launched her campaign for Governor yesterday.  Tom Corbett is rated the most vulnerable incumbent Governor in the country and prominent Democrats are lining up to evict him from Front Street in Harrisburg.  Schwartz joins former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, former DEP Secretary John Hanger and evangelical fundamentalist preacher Max Myers in the field.  State Treasurer Rob McCord will enter the race soon and rumors continue to circulate around Admiral Joe Sestak.

Gov. Gasbag’s painfully low approval numbers (26%) and high disapproval (49%) have led to a strong field of challengers.  Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor has launched a website in preparation of a GOP challenge and another Montco Commish Josh Shapiro is also considering a run.

The fact Corbett slashed education funding while giving those funds to corporations as tax breaks has driven his poll numbers to the basement.  

Schwartz is progressive on social issues but not economic social ones.  Her record is something of a corporate Democrat and would normally allow the Pennsylvania progressive community to get behind such a candidacy.  In this race however both Wolf and McCord easily outpace her in progressive credentials.  With another strong turnout of women voters however she could win the primary.  There is substantial doubt about her ability to win statewide due to her past ties to a Philadelphia abortion clinic.  Though that should not actually hurt her (abortion is a constitutionally protected right) it will in western Pennsylvania where even the Democrats are conservative.

It’s going to be a heck of a race.

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.