The Way I See It: PA Governor Race

Categories:      News & Politics    Opinion
Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 at 7:50 AM

It’s a Democratic free-for-all when it comes to the gubernatorial line-up of challengers who may replace incumbent Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. And I use the word “may” sparingly, because as of right now, his popularity is at an all-time low. In fact, a Republican polling firm found 58 percent of respondents disapprove Corbett’s job performance – including 45 percent who strongly disapprove.

An interesting thing to note here is that since Pennsylvania started allowing governors to run for a second term in 1968, no incumbent governor has lost a reelection battle.

Until probably now.

The slate of no less than eight incumbents – we’ll call them the Super 8 – currently have no publicly-clear frontrunner, meaning that this has the potential to become a very competitive, costly, and contentious Democratic primary.

The current list of Dems vying for Corbett’s job includes: former state environmental protection secretary John Hanger, Lebanon County Comissioner Jo Ellen Litz, another former state environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty, State Treasurer Rob McCord, businessman Max Myers, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, and businessman Tom Wolf.

However, while this is a wide-open field right now, I personally believe there are a few candidates that are becoming front-runners. My top three choices are: State Treasurer Rob McCord, environmental attorney Katie McGinty, and Tom Wolf, a York businessman and former state revenue secretary.

So here’s a little background on each of them:

Rob McCord has definitely lived a charmed life. If you’ve ever heard him talk, his presence is pretty magnanimous. He was born into an academic family, and schooled at Harvard and Wharton. He was mentored in politics by two-time U.S. Cabinet Secretary Norman Mineta and in business by legendary former Safeguard Scientifics CEO Pete Musser. He was a venture capitalist and made millions investing in tech start-ups, then waltzed into statewide elected office four years ago as a first-time candidate and then easily won a second term. Overall, he’s a smart guy and fiscally savvy.

Katie McGinty actually has no direct political experience, having never held elected office before.  She holds a law degree from Columbia and is a former state environmental protection secretary and has previously worked in the Clinton Administration and still has ties to former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore. And she did serve on Ed Rendell’s cabinet.

As for Tom Wolf, well, he’s taking a few pages out of Tom Smith’s playbook (little known figure to high profile candidate). Wolf, unlike the rest of the crew, when asked why he was running, instead of bashing Corbett, he instead remarks that he’s lived a life of doing things. And that he has. He dropped out of Dartmouth College when he was nineteen to serve a two-year stint as a Peace Corps member in India –  although he eventually returned to earn a bachelor's degree.

He also has a master's degree from the University of London and a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He started by working at the family hardware store and driving a truck for the business. He later took over the company. The company was started by his great, great-grandfather Adam Wolf in 1843 as a lumber, hardware, and building materials business, and Wolf and two of his cousins purchased the company in a leveraged buyout in 1986. In 2006 however, they sold the majority of the company's shares to key employees and a private equity firm in a publicized sale.  And a few years later he actually was making plans to run for Governor.

In 2009, however, he learned that the company was in danger of failing because of the recession. He immediately assumed control of the company as chairman and CEO. He also abandoned his run for governor. He then used his own money to shift his company’s focus away from being a supplier to other firms and transformed it into a company that competes with Chinese products. And today, WOLF is now the largest wholesale distributor of kitchen cabinets in the United States.

While currently eight candidates are on this slate, a few other names out there are still buzzing around and can still jump in. And no matter which candidate you choose moving forward, a good thing to note is this race could get ugly. The fact is that there are not too many ideological differences amongst the candidates, meaning it could get personal rather quickly.

But no matter how personal and ugly it may get, it probably can’t get any worse than Corbett’s popularity right now.

Love? Hate? Agree? Disagree? I want to hear from you. Email me at rStyn@ErieReader.com, and follow my on Twitter @rStyn.

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