Pennsylvania’s Democratic Primary for the Governor’s race started last Saturday.
It’s going to be a long six months.
By Denise Clay
Politicians are a lot like sharks…if they smell blood in the water, they run toward it.
So if you’re an incumbent governor with approval ratings in the cellar, a whole lot of sharks come to call. While the sharks may not come from your own
school of fish, they’re coming…and they’re coming in bunches.
Eight Democratic “sharks” smell blood in the water and that blood is coming from Gov. Tom Corbett. Gov. Corbett, who is running for a second term, is
bleeding approval points and because of that, is vulnerable to becoming one of the few Pennsylvania governors not to win another four years.
So most of the sharks gathered last Saturday at the Temple Center for Performing Arts in North Philadelphia to talk about how they want to harpoon Gov.
Five of the eight candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Governor–former Department of Environmental Protection Secretaries Katie McGuinty and
John Hangar; former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf; State Treasurer Rob McCord; and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz—met at the Performing Arts Center to share with
an audience of community members and activists.
The other three candidates, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz and Cumberland County pastor Max Myers did not attend
the forum. Corbett, who was also invited, declined to attend.
It was a good crowd, but if you were hoping for information that you couldn’t find on a campaign website, you went home disappointed.
Moderated by the Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church, the forum, organized by a coalition of community groups and unions, was focused on the
Working Families Agenda, an agenda that focuses on such things as an increase in the minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, better funding for education and
protecting the pensions of public employees.
While the questions were substantial, the candidates barely fought the urge to lapse into their worst rhetorical flourishes.
For example, Schwartz answered questions, but not in any way that gave you real information. When asked a question about education funding, she answered
it, and yet she didn’t.
“If I’m the governor, I’ll make public education the priority it deserves to be,” Schwartz said.
Meanwhile, McCord got, well, preachy. His rhetorical flourishes were such that Rev. Tyler mistakenly called him “Reverend” toward the end of the evening.
But Hangar had the applause line of the night.
“We should legalize marijuana!”
It got a standing ovation. Don’t know how I feel about that.
Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect much here. When a group hands you their agenda and then asks you about it in a room filled with their supporters,
how are you supposed to answer? Are you supposed to say “No, I don’t think that your education agenda is one I can support”?
Not if you want to get out in one piece.
Here’s the thing. We’ve got another six months of these things to get through before the May primary. I hope that they’ll be a little more substantial…and
that the candidates themselves understand that we need more than stump speeches, rhetorical flourishes and policy positions that have no chance in hell of
Otherwise, the sharks are just out swimming for nothing.
The Pennsylvania Primary will be held in May.