The PA 2014 Governor’s Race: First Preview

Yesterday Nate Silver handicapped next  year's gubernatorial contests, and Tom Corbett came in as fifth most  vulnerable. All well and good, but my current interest is the  Pennsylvania race, mostly because I live here, and enough is enough. I'm  not the only person who feels that way: I can't find anyone who thinks  Corbett is doing anything other than a horrible job.

When you  look at gubernatorial races, "most people" don't have an opinion. They  might know who the governor is, and where he/she lives (that capital  thing again, sorry) — but it's not generally a race that people know  much about until a month or two out. Not here. Not this time.

Everyone  knows about Jerry Sandusky. People living under rocks know about Jerry  Sandusky. And the overwhelming majority of them know that Tom Corbett  was the AG when charges were raised, that he didn't prosecute for 3  years, and that he got $640,000 from Jerry's charity for his first  gubernatorial run. Some of those people living under rocks are living  under rocks and not indoors because of the massive cuts that Tom Corbett  personally fought for: to rescind monetary aid to the poor and  disabled, to decrease education funds; to deny a Pennsylvania health  insurance exchange; to illegally sell off the PA lottery to a British  company; and to privatize liquor sales, throwing thousands out of work  and handing the liquor licenses to Wal-Mart. And who can forget his line  to pregnant women about to get a vaginal probe they don't need? "Just  close your eyes."

Yes, we know him. Nate Silver might say that due  to polling data and whatever else he puts in his secret sauce, there  are 4 more vulnerable governors for 2014. But the animose to Tom is  personal. 

So who's running? The list is pulled from Wikipedia, and is in alphabetical order. I've added my comments.

Continued after the jump.
Declared Democrats:

  • John Hanger,  former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental  Protection. John invited Max to a debate and has already sent out oppo  research on Max. Really.
  • Max Myers, businessman and former pastor. This is from John's research on Max. If true, Max is no Democrat.
  • Allyson Schwartz,  U.S. Representative. Yes, she's in. She's INCREDIBLY popular with  progressive Democrats in SE PA. She could win the primary, but there is  virtually no chance she can win the general, and I hope she drops out  before she loses her Congressional seat. 
  • Tom Wolf,  businessman and former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of  Revenue. I see his name and think "Albert Greene" — Tom Wolfe was a  great author. 

Probable Democrats:

  • H. Scott Conklin, State Representative and nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in 2010. Won't run.
  • Daylin Leach,  State Senator. I adore Daylin. He's charming, funny (hysterically  funny), his politics are terrific and sadly this is not his year. (Editor: Daylin Leach has announced that he is running for Congress in Pennyslvania’s 13th Congressional District so it is unlikely that he will be running for Governor. The 13th is now an open seat since Allyson Schwartz has officially launched her campaign to run for Governor of Pennsylvania.)
  • Robert McCord,  state Treasurer. If Rob runs, he is the top of the top tier. Well  funded, well backed, a great organization, and would have the support of  a lot of the business community.
  • Kathleen McGinty,  former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental  Protection, former Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. Katie  is a go-getter, and while you've never heard her name, she's aligned  with Al Gore and Bill Clinton. She's got an exploratory committee, and  if she runs, she'll bring a lot of heavy hitters to the state, probably a  lot of the people Terry McAuliffe is using this year, and there will be  a huge discussion of fracking and why we don't charge companies to  frack as they do everywhere else, even in Texas. A top tier candidate.
  • Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia. Love Mike. He can't win.
  • Dan Onorato,  former Allegheny County Chief Executive and nominee for Governor in  2010. He lost in 2010 not only because it was a Republican sweep year,  but because he's a western PA Dem — meaning he's a blue dog. His  positions on abortion, gay rights and women will hurt him if he tries to  run again. 
  • Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown — he's going to run, but he lacks backing and name recognition outside of Northeast PA.
  • Joe Sestak,  former U.S. Representative and nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2010. We  all love Joe. Many of us had hoped that he'd run for his old seat last  year. He hemmed and hawed and kept saying "maybe" for so long that he  basically handed PA CD 7 to Pat Meehan. If he's going to run, he needs  to announce this spring. 
  • Josh Shapiro, Chairman of the  Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Might run, but I really hope  that he doesn't. Josh is a great guy who's been the head of the Montco  Board for a little over a year: first Democratic running of that county  in 140 years. He's doing a great job, and should serve out his term  there. He's young and has a future, and shouldn't waste political  capital here.
  • Tim Solobay, State Senator — won't run.
  • Michael J. Stack III, State Senator — won't run.
  • Jack Wagner,  former Pennsylvania Auditor General — might run, but has a lot less  name recognition than some other Democrats, and a weak base.

Possible Republicans:

  • Bruce Castor,  Montgomery County Commissioner. If Tom doesn't run, Bruce will be the  candidate. There's a good chance that Bruce can beat Tom in a Republican  primary.
  • Tom Corbett, incumbent Governor — yes it's true — he hasn't announced!
  • Jake Corman, State Senator — won't run.
  • Dominic Pileggi, Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania State Senate — might run, but won't run for long once people remember the legal problems.
  • Mike Turzai,  Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives — might  run, but won't run for long once people remember the legal problems.
  • Scott Wagner, businessman — No relation to Jack Wagner — won't run, and if he does, it won't last.

Let's  sum up. Allyson Schwartz announced yesterday, and she is "the name" in  the race so far. She's the only one of the declared candidates with any  name recognition. John and Max are going to fight it out in their own  little universe and will burn one another out. Tom may peak, but he  doesn't have staying power. Allyson has a lot going against her. She is  über liberal, which is great in her Congressional district, but is not  going to play statewide. She's a Jewish woman, which is also not going  to play. She was a supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008, but it's  unlikely she'll be able to make enough use of the remaining Clintonistas  in the state: it's more likely they'll migrate to McGinty. 

Rob McCord is the man to beat on the Democratic side, IF he  runs. The smart money says that he'll only run if he calculates that he  has a high win percentage. I don't expect we'll hear from him on that  issue for a few months. 

And then there's Katie McGinty. I am  surprisingly impressed with her on a number of levels. She's smart, and  both her bio and her work are compelling. But it's more than that.  There's a political trait that's rare, and something one is either born  with or not, and she's got it. It's the ability to meet a person and  remember them. She came to speak to our local Democratic group last  week, and when she walked in, I went to greet her, and she looked at me  and said "I know you…" she paused and said "I saw you registering  voters at the mall." Seriously — that would have been last year, or  possibly in years past. Trust me, I'm not that memorable. But she has  the eye. When she spoke, she talked about her work at the state and  Federal levels. She has moxie and confidence, and seriously good  politics. Evaluating her public presence vs Allyson's presence the last  time I spoke with her at a public event, it strikes me that there's no  contest. 

A few notes on Bruce Castor. He was a decent District  Attorney, and the office ran well under him. As I said, if Tom declines  to run, Castor will easily claim the Republican nomination. He's a  street fighter, and if Tom runs, it's important to remember that there's  bad personal blood between the two men going back to the 2004 AG race,  which was the first time the two competed head-to-head.

So that's the initial frame, folks. It could be a bloodbath, but it will be fascinating to watch.

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