2014 was quite the eventful year in Pennsylvania politics. Now that it is fully in the rear-view mirror, it’s the perfect time to take a look at who had the best and worst year. So, we’re going to present the biggest ups & downs of 2014, but first our honorable mentions.
Chaka Fattah. Things just kept getting worse for Rep. Fattah in 2014. First, the charges against his son are leading to a trial in which Fattah Jr. will have to defend himself. Then, his former Chief of Staff plead guilty to campaign finance fraud. Finally the Daily News and Inquirer published exhaustive stories about some of the Congressman’s questionable activities. The only reason Rep. Fattah isn’t ranked higher is that 2015 will probably be even worse for him.
Jim Burn. Winning the Governorship should have been the best thing to happen to the Chair of the PA Democratic Party. Instead, it proved a disaster. Despite Burn’s insistence, he and Wolf had never had a good relationship and when the latter won the nomination, he tried to oust the party chair. The battle ended in a stalemate that led to the creation of a PAC, FreshStartPA, that would serve as Wolf’s own apparatus. Now Burn is the odd man out in Tom Wolf’s Democratic Party.
Brendan Boyle and Ryan Costello. These two young men both won election to Congress last year in the open 13th and 6th districts respectively. While PA-6 is relatively competitive, Costello served as Chester County Commissioner and won by a fair margin. He’ll have to continue raising unseemingly amounts of money but he should be fine. As for Boyle and his new D+13 district, he basically just has to stay out of jail and he can serve for as long as he wants.
Dominic Pileggi. Election Night 2014 should’ve been the Senate Majority Leader’s moment of triumph. It turned out, however, to be the beginning of his downfall. After Republicans swept the State Senate races and increased their incoming majority, Sen. Jake Corman announced he would seek to overthrow Pileggi. Corman prevailed, and Pileggi was suddenly the odd man out.
Dave Reed. We should have seen this coming. In June, Chuck Todd identified the State Rep. as one of PA’s “Rising Stars”. Afterwards, we asked our readers which of the four Todd named was the Keystone State’s brightest rising star and Reed emerged victorious. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise then when after the GOP gains in the State House, Reed won election as House Majority Leader. Rising star indeed.
Jake Corman. As previously mentioned, Dominic Pileggi’s loss was Jake Corman’s gain. Corman’s victory was a shift in power away from Southeast Republicans who tend to be more moderate. It is entirely possible this switch becomes a landmark moment for conservatives in the Senate Republican caucus.
Katie McGinty. 2014 didn’t start well for McGinty. She consistently ran fourth in the polls and unsurprisingly finished in fourth among her Democratic cohorts with just 7.6% of the vote. After that battle, though, Wolf backed her for party chair and when that effort was unsuccessful, put her in charge of FreshStartPA. Now McGinty will serve as the Governor-Elect’s Chief of Staff, revealing she is perhaps the best long-term thinker of them all.
Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord. Just about every pundit would’ve told you at the dawn of 2014 that the Democratic primary would be a battle between the Congresswoman and the State Treasurer. Both candidates dithered, however, as Schwartz chose to keep her powder dry until April while McCord waited for months before officially getting in. The question is no longer which of them will be Governor but rather, will either of them have a political future?
2014’s Institutional Ups & Downs
PA Supreme Court. It’s hard to imagine a more embarassing year for the commonwealth’s highest court. This year the personal feud between Chief Justice Ron Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery was taken to a whole other level. In October, it was revealed that McCaffery was among those exchanging pornographic emails with employees in the Attorney General’s office. McCaffery accused Castille of being behind an effort to take him down. Then, Castille forced the AG to give him the emails. All of a sudden, Justice Eakin claimed McCaffery threatened to reveal Eakin’s own embarrassing emails. The Court suspended McCaffery, with Castille calling McCaffery a “sociopath”. McCaffery finally stepped down, ending the ordeal. The prestige of the court, though, has yet to return.
Same-Sex Marriage. 2014 was the watershed moment for same-sex marriage in the Keystone State. On May 24th, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III struck down the 1996 ban. The ruling is the product of a titanic shift in public opinion in Pennsylvania as well as nationwide. Republican Rep. Charlie Dent even voiced his support a few days later, suggesting the partisanship of the issue is waning. A recent Muhlenberg Poll now shows a whopping 62% of Pennsylvanians support same-sex marriage. 2014 was truly a historic year for civil rights in PA.
2014’s Split Decision
Tom Corbett. On the one hand, Governor Corbett lost re-election. On the other hand, Governor Corbett lost re-election. For a man who never seemed comfortable as Governor (or even to like it very much), defeat can only be so stinging. The outgoing Gov has made no secret of the fact that, while naturally upset he lost, he is nonetheless happy his political career is over and he’ll have plenty of time to spend with his grandchildren. During the Inauguration that signaled America’s first transfer of power, that of Washington to Adams, the former display such a sunny disposition that the latter theorized in a letter to his wife what the old General must be thinking. “I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us shall be happiest.” Don’t be surprised if Tom Corbett whispers that to his successor on January 20th.
The Down Arrow of 2014
Kathleen Kane. Professionally, politically, even personally 2014 was almost surely the worst year of Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s life. The Moulton Report revealed no grand conspiracy in the Sandusky case, and her verbal missteps stole the show. Her feuds with Frank Fina and Seth Williams made headlines. A grand jury is investigating her for leaking information. Any hopes of a Senate race in 2016 were dashed and focus now turns to the necessity of re-election. Her decision to shut down a sting case in Philadelphia is under renewed scrutiny. After she initially refused to answer questions about it (which resulted in this priceless photo), she was grilled by the press. She suffered a concussion in a car crash and at the very end of the year it was announced that she and her husband were divorcing. Safe to say the Attorney General is glad to see 2014 go.
The Up Arrow of 2014
Tom Wolf. At the dawn of 2014, Tom Wolf was at best the wildcard in the Democratic gubernatorial field. Who knows, with $10 million, anything is possible right? Little did we know Wolf would use that cash perfectly, with a series of ads that set him apart as a smart yet mild-mannered, Jeep-driving businessman who would change Harrisburg. He pretty much cruised to the Governor’s Mansion from then on. Now, the man from York is set to become the most powerful Pennsylvanian in 2015. There may very well be storm clouds on the horizon but as for 2014 it couldn’t have gone any better for Governor-Elect Tom Wolf.