(172) The Democrat primary contest for PA Governor once looked like a process that would capture the attention of the national media. Something that might even show Democrats here can walk and chew gum simultaneously. You know, state Democrats hold a million-plurality registration edge but do not have control of any of the three branches of state government.
Tom Corbett, America’s most vulnerable incumbent governor, faces at least five possible opponents capable of handing him a shellacking like US Senator Bob Casey Jr. did to Rick Santorum in 2006. How often does one state boast it can mount that many qualified challengers for such an important office?
The question today, however — “Is this race over before it even begins?” Has Tom Wolf, a wealthy York businessman, bought himself a lead that has become insurmountable? Various polls show Wolf in the 30 and 40 percentiles while all other candidates remain in the single digits.
This spread came about due to Wolf’s television advertising buy in the last three weeks. Wolf is likely to spend more funds in this primary than any other candidate, an easy feat since he ponied up $10 million of personal funds for starters.
Meanwhile, there is no explanation for the continued media silence of State Treasurer Rob McCord or US Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. Both show they can stay within respectable distance of Wolf in campaign funds. Both apparently believe television commercials this far ahead of the May 20 primary would not be of value.
Note, however, that polls showed Wolf buried in the pack prior to his media buy.
Recently former state auditor-general Jack Wagner has become a wild card in the Democrat primary. He lost the Democrat primary to Bill Peduto for Pittsburgh Mayor last year. Wagner has always had difficulty raising funds, but he could be a spoiler.
It is still too early to determine where his votes might have gone if he had not run. Currently Wagner’s candidacy has become a problem to other Pittsburgh powers and this could benefit Wolf. Rumors abound that they are trying to reach a consensus and get behind the same candidate to guarantee Wagner’s demise.
Allegheny County Democrats hope to show as much political influence as Philadelphia. Both ranking Democrat lawmakers in the House and Senate hail from Allegheny. Joining with Mayor Peduto, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the Democrat committee leaders, the group could flex muscle not seen from that end of the state in three decades or more.
McCord and Schwartz are still capable of competing with Wolf, but, perhaps, not if both remain in the race.
McCord continues to gather endorsements from a variety of organizations who believe they should promote the person who will make the best governor despite Wolf’s lead. That does not mean McCord’s endorsers reject a Wolf nomination. Last week this included the 400-member “Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity.”
That endorsement sparked interest because Rep. Schwartz apparently hopes to win the nomination without leaving Southeast PA. Bob Brady, a fellow member of Congress and Philly Democratic Chair, endorsed Schwartz early and has been able to provide a unified front for her.
Two former state environmental secretaries Katie McGinty and John Hanger round out the serious list of candidates. Hanger seems to have been at it the longest and is supporting the legalization of marijuana at a time when less people reject the idea. He recently won the straw poll at the PA Progressive Summit, a liberal bunch of people who have yet to show any muscle at the ballot box.
McGinty was President Clinton’s environmental advisor before serving in Gov. Rendell’s cabinet. She has and will draw support from big names such as Al Gore. McGinty is articulate and enthusiastic and – to date – is the only candidate other than Wolf to hit the airwaves.
While capable of defeating Corbett, neither are able to raise the funds necessary to be noticed in such a crowded field.
Bottom Line: The next two weeks should determine if McCord or Schwartz can catch Wolf. Likely one will need the other to drop out to overcome such a spread.
Disclaimer: The writer is a supporter of McCord, based on recommendations of others whom he respects. Unlike recent Republican primaries, there seems to be few attempts to “pressure” support.