PA-Gov: Sabato Moves Race From “Lean Democratic” to “Likely Democratic”

Tom-Corbett-upsetYet another national prognosticator is downgrading Governor Corbett’s chances of winning a second term.

Today, in the latest report from University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election is shifted from “Lean Democratic” to “Likely Democratic”.

Managing Editor Kyle Kondik went so far as to call the Governor a “goner”.

“Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA) has looked like a goner for a long time,” Kondik writes. “We moved his race from Toss-up to Leans Democratic more than a year ago. We held it there after the primary because of Pennsylvania’s tradition of consistently giving each party two consecutive terms in the governor’s office (Corbett is just in his first party term) and because we wanted to see if there was any sign of movement in Corbett’s direction against his Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf.”

“There hasn’t been,” he concluded. “Wolf’s been up double digits in every single poll conducted since the primary. Corbett looks like a one-termer.”

Sabato believes four Governorships are likely to change party hands (Arkansas and Illinois from Dem to GOP as well as Maine from GOP to Dem) but Pennsylvania is the only race where that change is categorized as “likely”.

Last week, Governing Magazine similarly shifted the PA-Gov race from “Lean Democratic” to “Likely Democratic”.

PA-Gov: Corbett Calls Wolf A Liar in Latest Ad (VIDEO)

It should come as no surprise that in the gubernatorial race, it is getting personal, it’s become negative and it all centers around education.

The Corbett-Cawley campaign unveiled their newest ad, entitled “Mr. Big”, this afternoon. It seeks to portray Wolf’s claims that the Governor cut $1 billion from education as a flat-out lie.

“Tom Wolf’s big lie about education funding has now been exposed,” the narrator begins.

The commercial then shows excerpts from various newspapers across the state to back up their claim that Wolf isn’t telling the truth.

“If Wolf is willing to lie about your kids education, what won’t he lie about?” the narrator concludes.

The thirty-second spot contains many of the tell-tale signs of campaign ads. For instance, Wolf’s picture is first seen on a tiny TV screen in a dark room. It then transition to bright, happy kids when describing Corbett’s education accomplishments.

At the end, Wolf is again shown in dark, blurry footage (hey, I remember that gazebo) and the music culminates in a dramatic crescendo when the final question is asked and Wolf’s face is juxtaposed with a small child sitting on the steps of a school bus.

This is the race’s third straight commercial concerning education. First, Corbett answered his critics by speaking directly to the camera. Then, Wolf hit back with an ad featuring his own flurry of newspaper headlines.

It’s fair to say this likely won’t be the last commercial concerning education before November

PA-Gov: Auditor General to Investigate $48 Million in “Undisclosed Funds” Spent on HealthyPA

DePasqualeAuditor General, Eugene DePasquale, and his office announced their intent Monday to investigate the appropriation of $48 million spent on undisclosed activities relating to the Corbett Administration’s HealthyPA plan.

DePasquale will ask for copies of all itemized billing statements for all contracts associated with HealthyPA to discover how the Corbett Administration appropriated $48 million in federal and state funds for the HealthyPA roll out.

HealthyPA is Governor Corbett’s option to low-income Pennsylvanians to purchase health insurance from private carriers rather than the state government.

According to the Healthy PA website, Governor Corbett will not accept “Washington’s ‘one size fits all approach’ for the Commonwealth” and thus created HealthyPA as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion introduced under the Affordable Care Act.

Among the opponents of Corbett’s private Medicaid expansion plan are the SEIU.

“We applaud the efforts of Auditor General DePasquale to demand transparency and accountability from the Corbett Administration in its expenditure of taxpayer dollars,” said Neal Bisno, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Despite facing a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, Governor Corbett doled out $48 million on undisclosed activities related to its Healthy PA program while refusing to simply expand Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians. Imagine what $48 million could have offered this past year for the hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians in the way of doctor visits, medications and life-saving care.”

Citing an article from Forbes, they assert that HealthyPA will cost more and require steep budgets cuts.

Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Tom Wolf has pledged to accept the original Medicaid expansion if elected Governor.

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.

Corbett

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.”

Wolf

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.

PA-Gov: Wolf Intends to Block Controversial Abortion Bill

wolfAdd to the list of obvious differences between the heavily Republican legislature and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf the issue of abortion.

Today, Wolf made clear he would not sign a major abortion bill being pushed by the legislature.

“Tom Wolf would not sign this bill,” spokeswoman Beth Melena declared. This is just an attempt to make it more difficult for women to access reproductive health care.”

Incumbent Tom Corbett is widely expected to support the bill.

The bill, which was introduced last February by Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler, requires a conjunction between doctors and hospitals offering obstetrical or gynecological care less than 30 miles away from the clinic. Abortion rights advocates are up in arms, citing the statistic that only 0.3% of abortions lead to major complications, thus asserting that the real goal of the legislation is to limit access.

This legislation is primarily viewed by opponents as a creative way to obstruct and restrict a woman’s access to abortions since not all doctors work within 30 miles of a hospital and many hospitals will reject reproductive care based on religious affiliation.

“They did this before with one of those ultrasound bills and that died and ugly death too,” PennLive editor John Micek told Mother Jones. “As conservative as this legislature can be, it seems to me to be seized by fits of common sense.”

So far the hot-button issue of abortion has been on the campaign back-burner and it’s unclear whether this will force it into the debate over the next few months.

PA-Gov: YouGov Poll: Wolf 50 Corbett 39

Tom-WolfAnother poll shows Democratic nominee Tom Wolf with the lead in the gubernatorial race, although his advantage is smaller than in other polls.

YouGov found 46% of respondents favor Wolf while 35% support Governor Corbett. When those who are leaning towards one candidate or the other are included, though, the margin becomes Wolf 50%-Corbett 39%.

There is little difference between these results and the ones YouGov produced in July.

The gender gap is rather large with Wolf holding a 51-26 advantage among women and Corbett edging out his opponent 43-41 among men.

In the partisan breakdown, Wolf leads Democrats (84% to 4%) and Corbett leads Republicans (69% to 12%) although the former does much better with members of the opposite party. Independents favor the Governor by a narrow 39% to 36% margin.

Liberals (88-3) and moderates (56-20) overwhelmingly favor Wolf while conservatives (69-13) greatly favor Corbett.

Wolf leads nearly all age groups with Gov. Corbett holding onto just a 44% to 42% lead among voters sixty-five and older. The Democrat’s biggest strength is young voters between the ages of 18 and 29, where he holds the 60% to 23% lead.

Finally, Wolf holds a small edge with white voters (43-38) and a large edge with black voters (68-9).

YouGov surveys are a bit difficult to get a handle on. They conduct their surveys online as part of a nationwide effort. They also don’t specify whether they target registered or likely voters. Polls among likely voters are generally more accurate. Yet YouGov’s polls were judged the second most accurate in 2012.

Altogether, in the last few weeks all matter of polls have pegged Wolf’s support at between 49% and 59% while Corbett stands somewhere between 25% and 41%.

If you combine the results of the latest Quinnipiac, RMU, Harper, F&M and YouGov polls Wolf’s average is 53.1% while Corbett averages 32.5%.

This YouGov survey took place from August 18 to September 2 and included 3,560 interviews.

PA-Gov: If Re-Elected, Corbett Says He Would Call Special Session on Pensions

GovernorCorbettIf Corbett can win reelection in November, one of his first orders of business would be to call a special session in the legislature to handle the pension crisis in the state he revealed today.

Corbett cites pensions as a major issue because some cities, including Scranton, are distressed due to their unaffordable pension obligations. In addition, he says a number of school districts in Pennsylvania could come “close to bankruptcy” if no solution is found.

“If I don’t get re-elected for four more years, there will be nothing done about this, because Mr. [Tom] Wolf says there is not a pension problem,” Corbett said.

While Tom Wolf did not respond to Corbett’s comments, his spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan said Corbett’s pension plan does not solve the pension problem and it is only “kicking the can down the road.”

According to the governor, his poll numbers are low because he is taking on the issues “no one else will touch”, including pensions, ending the state-controlled liquor stores, and privatizing the state lottery.

“If I had been looking toward reelection, do you think I would have taken on pensions, when all it does is get everyone upset?”, Corbett said.

Corbett briefly refused to sign the budget in July 2014, citing the lack of pension reform in the budget as the main reason.

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?

PA-Gov: Quinnipiac Poll: Wolf 59 Corbett 35

Wolf CorbettAnother poll, another piece of bad news for Governor Corbett.

This, however, might be the worst piece of polling news yet.

Quinnipiac, the only out-of-state nonpartisan polling institution that has done surveys of this race, released their latest results this morning. 59% of likely voters support Democratic nominee Tom Wolf while just 35% support Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

The challenger is leading the incumbent by 24 points. This advantage is actually an increase from the twenty point lead Wolf held in Quinnipiac’s June poll.

Even worse, this poll is among likely voters as surveys of likely voters tend to favor Republicans while surveys of registered voters tend to favor Democrats.

Breakdown

Breaking the poll down by groups and issues provides little solace to the Corbett campaign.

Wolf leads 53% to 39% among independents while capturing 91% of Democrats and a surprising 28% of Republicans.

Nor can the Corbett-Cawley team console themselves with the fact that over fifty days remain until the election. 84% of voters say their mind is already made up compared to just 15% who might change their mind.

In terms of issues the voters found to be the most important, they broke down this way: 32% said economy/jobs, 25% responded education, 17% cited government spending and 15% listed taxes.

Wolf leads all these categories: 58-34 on the economy and jobs, 61-29 on education, 54-38 on government spending, even 50-41 on taxes.

Views on the Candidates

The Democrat also leads Corbett on all questions of character traits.

By a 54% to 21% margin, voters think Wolf is honest and trustworthy. For Corbett, it is an even 43% to 43% split.

58% believe Wolf cares about their needs and problems compared to just 27% who say he doesn’t. Only 35% of voters think that Corbett cares while a distressing 56% believe he doesn’t.

Lastly, 61% say Wolf has strong leadership qualities while only 18% counter that he does not. Corbett’s 50% to 42% margin is much smaller.

Perhaps most worrying for the Governor’s campaign, though, are the following numbers.

51% of Wolf backers say their support is primarily a vote against the Governor. Furthermore, 50% of respondents view the Democratic nominee favorably while just 22% view him unfavorably.

Governor Corbett, however, is viewed favorably by just 33% of respondents while 55% have an unfavorable view of him.

“A stunningly bad showing for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett who is clobbered across the board on issues, leadership and other character traits by a candidate who was unknown to most voters earlier this year,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“What’s Tom Corbett’s biggest problem?,” Malloy asks and answers. “Tom Corbett.”

This Quinnipiac Poll surveyed 1,161 likely voters from September 3rd to 8th and involved live interviews via landlines and cell phones. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9%.

PA-Gov: Pennsylvania Working Families Endorses Tom Wolf

Tom-WolfTom Wolf has secured another endorsement in his bid for governor, this time from the new progressive political group, Pennsylvania Working Families.

Even though Working Families believes Wolf is considered “a lock to win” on Election Day, the group nonetheless is still advocating for Wolf as the right man to get their agenda passed.

“We are going door to door in swing senate districts building support for the minimum wage increase”, says Kati Sipp, Director of PA Working Families. “That means that regardless of who controls the Senate, we’ll be able to show that support for minimum wage cuts across party ines, so that our next governor Tom Wolf can be sure of getting a vote on it and other key issues for working Pennsylvanians.”

Tom Wolf, on receiving the endorsement, said, “I am running to strengthen our economy, education system, and infrastructure while loosening the hold of special interests. The endorsement of PA Working Families will help me with those fights by helping me build grassroots support.”

The goal of PA Working Families and its sister organizations is to win back rights for workers in a number of states. Fighting for higher minimum wage is one of the top goals.

Since the early days of his campaign, Wolf has called for a higher minimum wage, voicing his support of raising it to $10.10 an hour.

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