By Alex Rose, Delaware County Daily Times
With the midterm elections drawing to a close, both gubernatorial candidates were furiously traveling the state this weekend -- including two Delaware County stops for Democrat Tom Wolf, who addressed a small crowd at the city’s Democratic headquarters on the Avenue of the States.
Wolf, a nearly 66-year-old York county businessman hoping to pin Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett to a single term, was joined by state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester, who is facing his own race against Republican Upland Mayor Michael Cianch, and congressional Democratic candidate Mary Ellen Balchunis, who is looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby.
Wolf was affable and jokey as he rallied the troops here Saturday for a large Nov. 4 turnout, laying out three areas he believes the election hinges on: Education, jobs and “fairness.”
“If we don’t have a fair society where we include everybody, where everybody has a chance, if we don’t do that, then we’re cheating ourselves,” he said. “And I think there’s a sense out there among some people that I’m just going to get mine and to heck with the rest of you. We can’t do that. That doesn’t work.”
Wolf has consistently led Corbett in polling throughout the summer, and he maintained with a 10- to 13-point lead going into the weekend, according to the latest results from Franklin and Marshall College, YouGov and the Harper Survey.
The race has tightened recently, with Corbett hammering away at his claim that a vote for Wolf is a vote for higher taxes on the middle class. The Democratic challenger has meanwhile stuck to education as a top priority, with plans to lower property taxes while bolstering education spending through a combination of higher income taxes on the state’s top earners and new taxes on Marcellus Shale drillers.
Wolf has also blasted Corbett’s own record on education, claiming the incumbent slashed $1 billion in funding during his first year alone. Corbett has countered that those funds represented stimulus money the state received as part of recession-halting legislation, which were never replaced at the federal level. The incumbent has also claimed that he increased education spending overall during his tenure, though analysts note that requires taking into account $870 million in new employee pension obligations, not dollars spent “in the classroom,” as Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan put it.
Wolf also didn’t miss an opportunity to point to September figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that he said put Pennsylvania dead last in job creation nationally. Though the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.7 percent today from 8.1 percent in Jan. 2011, when Corbett took office, overall job creation during that same period increased only about 2 percent, from 5,664,900 jobs to 5,782,600.
Corbett has dismissed similar figures touted by the Wolf camp for months, arguing that Pennsylvania was able to weather the recession relatively well, meaning it had less ground to make up than other states as the economy recovered. Still, Wolf said there is an even greater metric at play.
“The jobs that are being created are really lousy jobs, they’re not family-sustaining jobs,” he said. “The family-sustaining jobs, they’ve been dropping off. The manufacturing, the high tech – they’re dropping off. The non-family sustaining jobs, the minimum wage jobs, they’re the ones that are going up.”
Corbett was also traveling Saturday from Harrisburg to Wilkes-Barre, and is expected to rally in this part of the state today with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Wolf will meanwhile wrap up his 40-stop weekend tour with President Barack Obama at Temple University today.
“I think that the type of person he is will encourage people to actually go out and vote,” said Kirkland after the event. “He energizes, inspires and just gets people to say, ‘Look, let’s go out and do this.’”
Delaware County Democratic leader David Landau said county Democrats are ready to put not only Wolf into office, but state legislators that can help him pass his agenda. He said this is the largest ground operation he has seen for a non-presidential year, with 1,100 poll watcher certificate applications on file and 1,500 door-knockers going out over the weekend.
“We have to close the race,” said Landau. “We have to close out and get our voters out. That’s what this weekend is all about.”