Pennsylvania's No-Nonsense Gov. Corbett Facing Tough Re-election Battle

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Saturday, 10 May 2014 04:37 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Pennsylvania's Republican governor is widely seen as the most vulnerable incumbent in the country, and his no-nonsense style is gaining him no popularity points as he heads into a re-election battle this fall.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who was elected during the national tea party wave in 2010, has not bounced back from a difficult first year that saw thousands of teachers laid off and services cut for the poor when he honored an election promise to slash away at a $4 billion deficit, reports The New York Times.

And while he points out that he is doing the job the state's residents "hired" him to do, Corbett's unpopularity means he may be the first Pennsylvania governor who may not serve two consecutive terms since 1968, when state law was changed to allow governors to be elected to a second term.

John Brabender, Corbett's chief re-election strategist, says Corbett suffers in comparison to his neighbor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

"Chris Christie is this dynamic, bantering politician who makes news on all sorts of national programs," Brabender said. "Tom Corbett is somebody who goes to work and does their job to the best of their ability and doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about all those things."

And as a result, polls show that most of the state's voters do not believe Corbett cares about them, revealed a Franklin & Marshall Poll  in January.

Corbett's advisers, though, say the polls will change once voters choose one of four Democratic challengers in the May 20 primary. The four have had a heated primary battle filled with aggressive attacks against each other, taking particular aim at frontrunner Tom Wolf, a York businessman.

The other Democrats in the primary are Allyson Schwartz, a congresswoman from the Philadelphia suburbs; state Treasurer Rob McCord; and former state Secretary of the Environment Kate McGinty.

But even Republicans in the state Senate are concerned about Corbett's level of support for them and their programs, complaining that the governor has not paid them a visit in two years, when he spoke preceding a vote on school vouchers.

"Sometimes I think he still thinks he’s attorney general," said Republican state Sen. Mike Folmer, who noted he supports Corbett but worries that his blunt governing style makes him seem uncompassionate.

Meanwhile, Democrats complain that Corbett cut the state's education dollars by $1 billion. Much of the money was lost, Corbett says, because federal stimulus dollars ended in Corbett's first year. After that, he restored money to education, and this year has proposed a budget increasing school spending by $400 million.

Wolf, who is a former revenue secretary, says Corbett's explanation is "crocodile tears" and blames the governor of the loss of 20,000 teachers' jobs.

And all four Democratic contenders are calling for education spending increases to be funded through increased taxes on the state's growing natural gas industry, a plan Corbett opposes.

Corbett has also refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, and has presided over $1.2 billion in corporate tax cuts, agreeing with late President Ronald Reagan's theory that if you "reduce your taxes, you're going to see growth."

And Corbett said he doesn't really mind which Democratic challenger wins the primary.

"I’m not the politician; I’m the prosecutor," he told The Times. "You can have all the opinions you want. I’ll take the facts.”

The governor, though, may have made it easier for people to cast their ballots this election cycle. On Thursday, he said he will not appeal a judge's decision that the state's controversial voter ID law violates citizens' fundamental right to vote, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

He said he still support the law, but it needs changes and he hopes to work with lawmakers to make the adjustments.

"It is clear that the requirement of photo identification is constitutionally permissible," he said. "However, the court also made clear that in order for a voter identification law to be found constitutional, changes must be made to address accessibility to photo identifications."

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