Reader Poll: What Issue is Most Important to You?

Voting-boothThere are now just less than fifty days left until Election Day.

This leads to the question of what issue will have the biggest impact how you cast your ballot this November.

The conventional wisdom has been that, as in years past, the economy and jobs will be the most important issue to voters.

Yet several polls this year have shown that education matters more to PA voters. Governor Corbett’s re-election campaign believes this to be the case, releasing a new ad last week disputing the notion that he cut education spending.

There was also a lot of speculation that health care reform (aka Obamacare) would be the central issue of the campaign. After the embarrassing website failure, however, the law has proven successful and is now barely commented on.

The last potential hot-button issue is the environment and energy. The Marcellus Shale resources have provoked a spirited debate on fracking and a severance tax and it’s possible this issue could bubble to the surface.

With some many different possibilities we decided to ask you, our readers, what issue matters the most to you?

With the midterms approaching, what issue matters most to you?

View Results

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Reader Poll: Bill Clinton Would Be the Best Campaign Surrogate

Kane-ClintonIn a crowded field, former President Bill Clinton ran away with it, with nearly half of respondents saying he’d be the best campaign surrogate.

The result is a bit surprising as Democrats’ willingness to be seen with the 42nd President has varied over time.

Al Gore didn’t use him in the 2000 presidential election because of the ghost of Lewinsky while John Kerry welcomed him four years later. In 2008, Clinton infamously ran into trouble campaigning for his wife in South Carolina yet four years later gave what many pundits considered to be the best speech of the entire 2012 campaign at the Democratic National Convention.

Altogether, Clinton was voted by 358 readers as the best campaign surrogate.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren finished second (110) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came in third (87).

Interestingly, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wound up fourth with 68 votes, not overly impressive for the 2016 front-runner.

2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney got a small piece of revenge as he received 60 votes compared to the 21 of President Barack Obama. Incumbent’s are usually unpopular during the midterms but reports suggest the Commander-in-Chief may be coming to PA.

Rounding out the group, Jeb Bush got 18 votes while just 8 respondents chose 2008 GOP nominee John McCain.

The full results are included below:

Who would be the best campaign surrogate?

  • Bill Clinton (49%)
  • Elizabeth Warren (15%)
  • Chris Christie (12%)
  • Hillary Clinton (9%)
  • Mitt Romney (8%)
  • Barack Obama (3%)
  • Jeb Bush (2%)
  • John McCain (2%)

Total Voters: 730

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PA-Gov Round-Up: Education and Tax Filings

PA-Governor-Mansion2This week the gubernatorial race was dominated by new ads and new polls.

Don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Nonetheless, there was plenty of news that happened that you may have missed, and if so, you came to the right place.


The Corbett camp has been consistently trying to catch their opponent in just the sort of gaffes that their own candidate is always accused of and this week they produced two separate hopefuls.

First, the Corbett-Cawley team distributed a clip of Tom Wolf giving an interview to FOX 43 (the Harrisburg affiliate) in which he was asked about his tax proposals.

In the clip, Wolf was responding to a question about his severance tax proposal and stated that the impact fee was a type of severance tax. This brought howls of protest from the Corbett campaign because Wolf has always insisted that the two are separate and that the impact fee is inadequate.

“It’s nice to see that Tom Wolf disagrees with Tom Wolf’s campaign commercials yet again,” said Communications Director Chris Pack. “Tom Wolf once again is demonstrating that he is willing to say or do anything to fulfill his longstanding political ambition to become governor – including repeatedly contradicting himself. The truth is that Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry has paid over $2.2 billion in taxes and another $636 million from a local impact fee, no matter how much Wolf’s political consultants try to spin it the other way in Wolf’s ads paid for by the Harrisburg special interests.”

Meanwhile, the PA Republican Party attempted to garner controversy over another comment Wolf made in the same interview.

The suggestion that two-income households could file separately to take advantage of an exemption set the PA GOP off.

“It is clear that Tom Wolf has crafted a punitive income tax hike that is a direct attack on Pennsylvania families,” PA GOP Chairman Gleason said. “The addition of a Marriage Penalty tax is the latest scheme centered around raising taxes. It should be no surprise that he wants to force families to search for tax loopholes because he is a loophole expert who pays a tax rate that’s less than half of what middle class Pennsylvanians pay. This is further proof he’s more concerned about growing the size of government regardless of the cost to Pennsylvania families.”

“Wolf’s comments should serve as a warning sign to all Pennsylvanians that Tom Wolf is running to raise their taxes,” he concluded.

The state Republican Party also praised Governor Corbett for his actions concerning the educational program Common Core this week.

“Today, Tom Corbett listened to the voices of Pennsylvanians who want a different direction for their children’s education,” Gleason said. “Today’s announcement serves as proof that Governor Corbett recognizes that children learn best when parent and communities are in control of their children’s education.”


Once Corbett released his ad on education on Tuesday, the Wolf campaign tried to counter by attacking the Governor’s record on education.

For example, their campaign sent out a link to an article on the Democratic nominee’s visit to a retirement community which included the comments of a retired (though occasional substitute) teacher.

“It’s affected the classrooms,” teacher Bill Jones said of Corbett’s education policies. “They’re taking away teachers’ aides. They’re taking away teachers. They’re taking away supplies that they need, and technology.”

Finally, Wolf’s PAC FreshStartPA came out swinging against Corbett on the issue of school funding when they posted their own YouTube video.

“Tom Corbett cut $1 billion from our schools resulting in over 27,000 educator layoffs, increases in class sizes, the reduction of important programs, and property tax increases throughout the commonwealth,” they wrote. “Tom Corbett has even admitted that he slashed education funding, but as election day approaches, he’s taken to the airwaves to mislead voters about his failed record.”

Hope you like hearing about education funding and gaffe accusations, because they’ll be plenty more to listen to from now until November 4th.

9/12 Ups & Downs

Great news for Tom Wolf and Penn State while one man seeks to edit his IMDB page. See who made this week’s list.

Up Arrow1Tom Wolf. All around it was a pretty great week for the Democratic nominee. A new Quinnipiac Poll shows him leading Gov. Corbett by 24 points. Not only that but the survey was among likely voters which tend to be more Republican-leaning (and accurate) than surveys among registered voters. National prognosticators also pronounced him a likely winner and a national progressive organization endorsed him. There’s was that one thing…but we’ll get to that later.

Down ArrowTom Corbett. The polls just keep getting worse for Tom Corbett. A twenty-four point deficit is a tough hill to climb and requires the campaign spend valuable ad time and money defending the Governor’s actions instead of talking about the future. He also may have been too late in his call for a special session on pension reform. Corbett had the opportunity to call one in July but declined. Finally, those “inappropriate” emails still lurk as another potential headache.

Down ArrowAlan Benyak. You spend years as an Army lawyer, even run for office, but you make one movie as “Mr. Cannibal” and that’s all anyone wants to talk about. Benyak (and Wolf) probably wishes he passed on the option to be in the Democrat’s latest campaign commercial. After Buzzfeed found out about his prior film history, he became in his own words “a pawn” in the fight for the Governorship. Hopefully for Benyak, people’s memory of this moment will be short.

Up Arrow1Penn State. This week it was announced that the NCAA was removing the remaining sanctions on Penn State’s football program. Next year, they’ll have their full supply of scholarships back and could even appear in a bowl game this year if their record is good enough. Of course, the NCAA chose to release this information in the midst of the NFL’s Ray Rice scandal in the hopes of burying it. The penalties may be gone but the legacy of Jerry Sandusky still apparently hangs over Happy Valley.

Up Arrow1Shaughnessy Naughton. The former PA-8 congressional candidate announced the creation of her new PAC this week. 314 PAC will focus on attracting STEM professionals into politics and has a number of notables on its board including climate scientist Michael Mann. It’s also a sign that we may see Naughton on the political stage again soon, as creating a PAC is the go-to move for any candidate currently between campaigns.

The tweet of the week goes to the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein for this little slice of sanity amidst the silly season that is fall of an election year (we also want to credit our old Managing Editor Brittany Foster for tipping us off to it).

Politically Uncorrected: A Tale of Two Years, Two Men and Two Elections

tom wolfHe had never held an elective office; yet, he won the Democratic primary against formidable opposition, even though he was not endorsed by his own political party.

A successful millionaire businessman, he pumped millions into his own campaign–a campaign noteworthy for its extraordinarily skilled and effective use of television. His platform, albeit broad in scope, concentrated heavily on raising revenues for a state facing chronic fiscal deficits.  Most controversial was his proposal for a progressive state income tax, a proposal that lacked specificity.

We could be describing Pennsylvania’s 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf. We could be. But we aren’t.

Instead, we are describing another candidate who ran for governor of Pennsylvania almost a half century ago; we are describing the 1970 Democratic gubernatorial nominee (and successful general election victor) Milton J. Shapp.

Indeed, the many parallels between Shapp and Wolf are striking–both the men and the times they lived in:

  • In 1970, as in 2014, the Democrat challenger was a successful businessman who had not sought elected office before — while his Republican opponent was an incumbent public official striving to retain office.
  • In 1970, as in 2014, the Pennsylvania economy was struggling while state government wrestled with its perennial problem–state budget deficits aggravated by slow economic growth and too high unemployment.
  • In 1970, as in 2014, the incumbent governor was unpopular. Unable constitutionally to seek re-election his incumbent lieutenant governor became the Republican nominee.
  • In 1970, as in 2014, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate proposed a progressive income tax to solve the state’s revenue problems –while his Republican opponent opposed raising taxes and favored cutting (wasteful) spending.
  • Finally, the national political zeitgeist offers additional parallels between 2014 and 1970.  In 2014, state Republicans expect to benefit electorally from President Obama’s abysmally low approval ratings. The 1970 campaign produced similar dynamics with state Republicans probably benefiting from newly elected Richard Nixon’s still high approval ratings (57 percent approval).

Notwithstanding these remarkable similarities, Tom Wolf in 2014 is no mere carbon copy of Milton Shapp in 1970.  In truth, there are many differences between the two.

In 1970 Shapp, unlike Wolf, was not quite the political tyro. Shapp was making his second effort as Democratic nominee, having previously also won his party’s nomination in 1966 only to lose to Republican Ray Shafer in the general election.

Equally important, Shapp was vague, if not obscure, in his income tax advocacy while blurring many of his positions on social issues.  Wolf, on the other hand, albeit short on detail, has consistently called for a progressive tax to solve the state’s fiscal problems, while more clearly articulating his generally liberal social policy positions.

However, the most important difference between the two may be what happens or doesn’t happen after the election. When Shapp was elected in 1970 the enactment of a new state income tax became the focus of his first budget proposal to the legislature. Consequently, Shapp was able to get the Democratic-controlled legislature to adopt a graduated income tax in March, 1971. It was in quick fashion struck down three months later by the state Supreme Court–ruling it violated the uniformity clause of the 1873 state constitution. Eventually by summer’s end, a new 2.5 percent flat tax was enacted, resolving the state’s acute fiscal crisis.

Wolf’s experience will be different. If he is elected, his ability to enact his agenda is highly unlikely to match that of Shapp in 1970, whose margin of victory that year (some 200, 000 votes) was accompanied by a Democratic sweep of both houses of the General Assembly, the first for the Democrats in 30 years. Wolf may be on his way to an impressive November victory, but not even the most optimistic Democratic analyst expects his party to prevail in the General Assembly elections. Very likely both houses of the legislatures will remain under Republican control.

Inauspicious as that may be for Wolf’s tax plans, it actually gets worse. The progressive income tax that Wolf has proposed almost certainly would face overwhelming opposition in a Republican-dominated legislature. Even if that obstacle could be overcome, any progressive tax would presumably be blocked by the uniformity clause of the state constitution, which states in part “all taxes shall be uniform on the same class of subjects.”

In effect, Pennsylvania cannot enact any progressive income tax without amending the constitution, a time consuming, laborious, and politically perilous undertaking that among other things would require the concurrence of a super majority of both legislative chambers.

That’s not going to happen anytime soon. Nor will a Wolf electoral victory produce in state government a consensus similar to the one achieved by Shapp in 1970 or for that matter any consensus at all.

Clearly, crisis will confront whoever wins Pennsylvania’s 2014 gubernatorial. That may not be all bad.

Crisis often brings solutions to governmental problems otherwise seen as insoluble. Indeed, today it sometimes seems only crisis induces government to act. That is really what happened in 1970.

Fifty years from now will history record that it’s also what happened in 2014?

9/5 Ups & Downs

A bad answer from Chaka Fattah, some bad polls for Tom Corbett and bad news for Philly’s DNC hopes. See who made this week’s list.

Down ArrowChaka Fattah. “I’m not a lawyer,” that was Rep. Chaka Fattah’s initial response to questions about whether he knew about a $1 million illegal campaign loan handled by his Chief of Staff. While the Congressman later denied any wrong-doing, it’s never a good sign when the answer to a question about knowing of an illegal activity isn’t a simple, “No.” It’s unclear how long this saga will last, but it is becoming increasingly clear it won’t end well for the Rep. Fattah.

Up Arrow1Tom Wolf. Another week, another pair of polls showing Wolf in the lead. While the margins differed widely (from 11 to 30 points) nevertheless both showed the Democrat with over 50% of the vote. All the while, Wolf is touring businesses around the state with an enthusiasm that indicates he’s ready for more challenging work.

Down ArrowTom Corbett. A “near-automatic pickup” for Democrats. That’s how the National Journal described the Governor’s race this week and it’s not hard to see why given the recent polls. We also learned this week that Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate PAC is moving on from Pennsylvania because they feel like they don’t need to attack Gov. Corbett anymore. We’d like to give the Governor an up arrow for the show of support from the RGA, but the truth is it’s September and mixed results aren’t going to cut it anymore. At this point, any week that isn’t a win for the Corbett campaign is a loss.

Up Arrow1State Senate Dem Candidates. In what must have been a carefully coordinated effort, four different Democratic candidates for State Senate seats premiered their first TV ads this week. John Kane (SD-26), Deb Kula (SD-32), Kim Rose (SD-6) and Mark Aurand (PA-40) all attacked their Republican opponents by linking them to Gov. Corbett. The first three talked about the Governor’s education spending while Aurand took on Corbett over the gas tax. Suffice to say, it’s clear what the Democratic strategy to take back the State Senate will be.

Down ArrowPhilly’s 2016 DNC Bid. Ed Rendell is probably the biggest booster of the City of Brotherly Love since Ben Franklin. That’s why it was so concerning to hear he feels that Brooklyn is the favorite to land the 2016 Democratic National Convention. According to the ex-Gov, New York’s financial advantage is insurmountable but he feels Philadelphia has the logistical edge. We still have several months to wait until we know whether Philly will win a valued place in the 2016 presidential election.

Up Arrow1Bill Peduto. Not only does the Mayor of Pittsburgh get to appear on Chuck Todd’s debut episode as host of “Meet the Press” but he’ll be following the President of the United States. Tough to top that.


For tweet of the week there really is no other choice but the conversation that got the whole state talking. After the release of the latest F&M poll, Corbett-Cawley Campaign Manager Mike Barley launched a John Lennon-esque salvo against undisputed top PA politico Terry Madonna. Click the tweet to view the whole timeline.

8/29 Ups & Downs

Wolf maintains his lead, Adolph gets a new opponent and things are looking grim for Chaka Fattah. See who made this week’s list.

Down ArrowChaka Fattah. It’s been a cruel summer for Rep. Fattah, but this last week might end up being the worst. After watching his son be indicted earlier this month, it is beginning to look like the Congressman has become embroiled in a scandal all his own. On Wednesday, his former Chief of Staff Gregory Naylor plead guilty to campaign finance fraud. According to the DOJ, Naylor was obscuring where campaign money was coming from while also making sure some of it went to pay off the college debts of a son of a candidate. The report never named the candidate but there is little doubt about who it could be. Fall may turn out to be even worse for Chaka Fattah.

Up Arrow1Tom Wolf. The Wolf campaign obviously had a great primary season but it remained to be seen whether they could withstand the expected summer onslaught from Governor Corbett. After being hit by numerous attack ads, it turns out the Democratic nominee is no worse for wear. The latest F&M poll showed Wolf with a 25 point lead against the incumbent. The man with the Jeep is now firmly in the driver’s seat of this race.

Up Arrow1Down ArrowTom Corbett. As you can see above, despite an intensive effort, the Corbett-Cawley team couldn’t make a dent in Wolf’s lead. Even the campaign’s internal strategists seem to think the Governor is down in the race, although they still believe there is a path to victory. Additionally, Planned Parenthood announced they intend to hammer the Governor for the rest of the campaign with their own “Top Ten List” to oppose his re-election. On the other hand, Corbett finally got some good news yesterday when his HealthyPA plan was approved.

Down ArrowPresident Obama. It’s not yet known whether the President will be doing any public midterm campaigning. If so, it’s unlikely he’ll come to Pennsylvania, despite the fact that he has won it twice. The F&M poll showed his approval rating unchanged at 34%. It seems the six-year itch is still haunting the chief executive.

Down ArrowBill Adolph. What’s the only thing worse than facing a wealthy opponent? Facing a wealthy opponent with no warning. This week it was revealed that venture capitalist Charles Hadley had been named the Democratic nominee in HD-165 just days before the filing deadline. Now, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman with dreams of becoming Speaker has to first make sure he’ll still be around come January.

The tweet of the week goes more to a series of tweets than any single one, this back and forth between FreshStartPA spokesman Mike Mikus and PA GOP Communications Director Megan Sweeney. I highly suggest you read the whole 21 tweet timeline to get a good overview of the political combat occurring in the race for Governor.

8/22 Ups & Downs

The Tomalis episode drags on, Dwight Evans gets some bad news, and a Philly sensation graces the cover of SI. See who made this week’s list.

Down ArrowTom Corbett. The Corbett team must have hoped that the furor surrounding Ron Tomalis would subside after his resignation. Unfortunately for them, though, the revelation by Steve Esack of the Morning Call that Tomalis would receive additional pension benefits thanks to his year as an adviser kept the story alive for another week. Late August could’ve been a time for the Governor to re-group in preparation for the fall onslaught. Instead, he has spent even more valuable time addressing questions about a low-level employee.

Up Arrow1Mike Fitzpatrick. This time last year, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick was considered a key target of the Democratic Congressional Committee. It’s becoming increasingly clear, however, that the DCCC views Fitzpatrick as a tougher opponent than perhaps they envisioned. For instance, a recent article in Roll Call omitted PA-8 as one of the five top House races to watch in the mid-Atlantic. Part of this change could be the result of the competitive Democratic primary nominee Kevin Strouse had to deal with. Regardless, Fitzpatrick enjoyed a calm summer and expect him try as hard as he can to extend that streak into the fall.

Down ArrowDwight Evans. The influential State Rep. found himself in the headlines this week and not in a good way. Earlier this week the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. (OARC), a nonprofit that Evans founded, was under investigation by the FBI. The state legislator’s career has been on a bit of an upswing since he lost his job as ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee in 2010. Evans is a close ally of Tom Wolf’s and that relationship could pay dividends later on. Therefore, the result of this investigation will likely be of critical importance to Evans’ future.

Down ArrowPhilly’s 2016 DNC Bid. After weeks of good news concerning Philly’s bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, including indications that the city had emerged as the front-runner, the streak has finally been broken. The bad news came in the form of labor unrest and the fear Democratic officials have that the union battles over the Convention Center could spill out into the open in 2016. After the uproar among labor when the 2012 DNC was held in the “right to work” state of North Carolina, the party may be wary of stepping into those waters again. For what it’s worth, those involved feel the issues will be settled long before 2016, but a decision is expected in just a few months.

Sure it doesn’t relate to politics, but we have to give the Tweet of the Week to Mo’ne Davis, who did the commonwealth proud by becoming the youngest person to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.

July Jobs Report: Minor Increase in PA Unemployment Rate

Unemployment-300x225The Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report for July today, revealing yet another mixed bag of results.

Bad News

The unemployment rate in PA increased by one-tenth of a percentage point, from 5.6 percent to 5.7 percent, between June and July. The unemployment rate across the nation increased at the same rate this month, which went from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent.

The size of PA’s workforce, which represents the individuals currently working or searching for employment, decreased in July from 6,371,000 to 6,403,000.

July marks the first time the unemployment rate increased since June 2012.

Good News

Despite the increase, the PA unemployment rate in July was still 1.8 percentage points lower than it was a year ago in July 2013.

Despite July’s decline, PA’s numbers for the year have been moving steadily upward. Since the beginning of 2014, 21,000 people have become employed who were not previously.

July’s unemployment increase only occurred in private sector jobs, and public sector jobs continued to grow. July’s largest gain was 3,500 jobs in construction, while its largest loss was 4,400 jobs in leisure and hospitality.

8/15 Ups & Downs

Wolf gets an unexpected endorsement, Corbett’s education adviser steps down and Philly attempts to win the 2016 Democratic National Convention. See who made this week’s list.

Up Arrow1Tom Wolf. The Democratic nominee picked up an unexpected victory this week when he won the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police. The organization previously backed Governor Corbett during his successful 2010 run and their largest chapter chose Rob McCord during the Democratic primary. Suffice it to say, their endorsement was not a given for Wolf and was quite the score for the gubernatorial front-runner.

Down ArrowTom Corbett, Carolyn Dumaresq and Ron Tomalis. Where do we even begin? This week, the Governor’s special adviser on higher education and former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, resigned. The drama started when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that Tomalis was completing little to no work while serving in this position. Acting Education Secretary Dumaresq made the issue worse when she gave an interview and mentioned Tomalis’ lack of an email record could be explained because they “delete and cleanse” their inbox every night. The fall run-up to the election is just weeks away and this is not the type of news Gov. Corbett needs right now.

Up Arrow1Chuck McIlhinney. It’s not often that campaigns get good news from two separate polls in one week, especially in a State Senate race. Yet that was the fortunate situation State Senator Chuck McIlhinney found himself in this week. The Republican from Pennsylvania’s 10th district is going against Democratic nominee Steve Cickay who had been dealing with efforts from party leaders to get him to drop out of the race.

Up Arrow1Philadelphia’s DNC bid. Well, this was the big week for Philly’s attempt to win the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Amid reports that the City of Brotherly Love is the front-runner to win the bidding, DNC officials were given an extensive tour on Wednesday and Thursday. Mayor Michael Nutter, former Gov. Ed Rendell and Rep. Bob Brady were among the many dignitaries, citizens and mascots that greeted the delegation. Philadelphians of all political stripes support the bid and hope the convention will be an economic and political bonanza for the city.

This week’s tweet of the week goes to someone quite familiar to all our PoliticsPA readers, our esteemed former Managing Editor Brittany Foster. She shows us that you should always remember that if you’re going to write about education, it’s vitally important to get the spelling of the headline right.

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