Tom Corbett Concedes; Tom Wolf Is Pennsylvania’s New Governor
In the end, the polls were right: Democrat Tom Wolf beat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday, making Corbett the first incumbent governor to fail to win re-election in Pennsylvania’s modern era.
Democrat Tom Wolf was elected Pennsylvania governor Tuesday after the businessman and first-time candidate spent $10 million of his own money on an early TV ad campaign that endeared him to voters and helped send unpopular Gov. Tom Corbett to a historic defeat.
When he takes office in January, Wolf will likely face a Republican-controlled Legislature and a yawning budget deficit as he tries to make good on a promise to dramatically increase the state government’s share of public school costs.
But for all the change a new governor brings, it won’t affect control of the legislature. Democrats have only a slim chance of taking the state Senate on Tuesday, meaning Wolf will face two chambers full of members deeply skeptical about much of his agenda.
“He has a very ambitious agenda consisting of a variety of things that the Republican legislature is not going to want to do,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.
Wolf promises to push something that Corbett has staunchly resisted — namely, a severance tax on natural gas production at the Marcellus Shale. Pennsylvania is the largest state that lacks such a tax.
“It should not be so difficult to implement the severance tax that he wants to do,” says Chelsa Wagner, the Allegheny County controller and a former state legislator. “Even a lot of Republicans have been for that.”
One of the biggest issues in the race—and a key driver of liberal rage—was education. Corbett and the GOP-dominated Pennsylvania legislature cut a staggering $1 billion from public education after he took office in 2011. The distribution of the cuts was highly discriminatory, with poor students losing, on average, 50 percent more funding than rich kids. In part because of these cuts, the Philadelphia school district faced a $300 million shortfall in 2013. That year, and again this year, Philadelphia students were allotted zero dollars for textbooks.
Corbett said he called Wolf to congratulate him on his win a few minutes ago, and wished him well for the next four years.
“I said I may be a one-time governor. And I am. But I am proud of what we did” along the way, Corbett said.
The under-current in the elegant Urban Room on the 17th floor of the Omni William Penn Hotel here was simply: Pennsylvanians weren’t ready for the tough fiscal love Corbett promised four years ago, and delivered on.
Wolf sent a note to supporters prior to giving his acceptance speech:
If we’re going to fund a world-class public education system, create family-sustaining jobs, bring about fairness and equality under the law, provide access to affordable health care, build safe communities, and keep Pennsylvania beautiful, it’s going to take all of us doing our part.
Democracy requires healthy debates, but our duty to Pennsylvania requires that we listen, that we roll up our sleeves, and that we come together to do what is right.
Hungry for more info on Wolf? Read Steve Volk’s Philly Mag profile, “Tom Wolf: Perfect Stranger.”