The race for the Democratic nomination for governor in the May 20 primary is not really about issues, at least not among the four contenders.
Although they all have detailed platforms that are in line with traditional stands of their party, their plans and pledges are aimed at Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, whom one of them will face in the November general election. That means there is very little difference in the policy proposals of Rob McCord, Katie McGinty, Allyson Schwartz and Tom Wolf. They all want to increase the state’s share of educational costs, force Marcellus Shale drillers to pay an extraction tax and find ways to boost the state’s economy, among other goals.
Rather than the issues, this primary campaign is about the personal histories of the candidates, which should be clear by now to anyone who reads a newspaper. Each brings a resume of varying skills to the race.
Mr. McCord, 55, is the state treasurer and a former venture capitalist. Ms. McGinty, 51, trained as a chemist, was an environmental adviser to the Clinton administration and became Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental protection. Ms. Schwartz, 65, ran a women’s health clinic, served nearly four terms in the state Senate and then, in 2003, was elected to Congress. All three live in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Despite their ample qualifications, it is Mr. Wolf, 65, of York County, who brings the best package of skills, experience and temperament to carry his party’s agenda into the fall fight with Mr. Corbett.
A native of Mount Wolf, the borough that bears his family name, he graduated from Dartmouth College, then earned a master’s degree from the University of London and a doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After a stint in the Peace Corps in India, he returned to York County, where he began working in the factory of his family’s business, a firm he went on to lead until he sold it in 2006.
That was just before former Gov. Ed Rendell appointed him as revenue secretary, a job Mr. Wolf held until 2008, when he resigned to pursue the governor’s office. That campaign was shelved, however, when he returned to buy back and rescue the family business, which had edged toward bankruptcy.
Mr. Wolf’s experience in the revenue department, along with his perspective as a business owner, gives him a ground-level understanding of the state’s tax code. That is the foundation of his belief that reform is essential so that businesses are taxed in an even-handed manner that does not give undue advantage to some at the expense of others, so that property owners won’t continue to carry such a heavy load for funding public schools and so that drilling companies pay more for the benefits they are withdrawing from deep under Pennsylvania.
Although Mr. Wolf portrays himself as a different kind of politician, he has been politically involved for years as a generous campaign contributor, significantly to Mr. Rendell. Mr. Wolf’s decision to fund this primary race with $10 million from his own fortune is at odds with his view that campaign finance limits are necessary, but he is correct that he is playing by the rules as they are currently written.
Mr. Wolf values loyalty, a positive trait, but his criticism of the prosecution and guilty verdict against his longtime friend, former state Rep. Stephen Stetler, in the Bonusgate scandal may be misplaced.
As to the race-based attacks waged in this campaign by Mr. McCord against Mr. Wolf, it is clear that Mr. Wolf — based on his deeds and the words of others in his community — is no racist, and we question this tactic by Mr. McCord, especially because he accepted a $20,000 campaign donation from Mr. Wolf in 2008.
Like all of the Democrats in this campaign, Mr. Wolf’s view that Pennsylvania’s government liquor monopoly can be improved without being abolished is unsatisfactory, particularly given the public’s opinion — borne out by poll after poll — that it should get out of the alcohol business and let private enterprise compete. That position does not yet have the advocate it demands within the Democratic Party, yet Mr. Corbett so far has disappointed on this score as well.
Tom Wolf, the strongest candidate in the Democratic field, has the endorsement of the Post-Gazette for his party nomination for governor.