Democrat Tom Wolf made history Tuesday by beating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in the general election. Wolf is the first challenger from either party to knock off a sitting governor since Pennsylvania voters changed the state Constitution in 1968 to put a limit of two terms on the executive office.
Wolf spoke for a few minutes, promised to make education a top priority, vowed to lure entrepreneurs and harness the state’s natural resources. But he offered little in the way of specifics while intoning the Founding Fathers, who said education was the “key to a strong democracy.”
“We need to be sure we resurrect that idea and make sure education is at the top of the list and not the bottom,” Wolf said.
But voters didn’t hitch onto Wolf’s bandwagon because he promised to boost education spending and tax natural gas drillers, as much as they simply ran away from Corbett. A recent Muhlenberg College/Morning Call Poll found a majority of voters were picking Wolf because of their dissatisfaction with the governor.
So for Corbett, who raised and spent about $24 million, the loss was a referendum on his policies and personality.
Corbett never overcame lingering anger over his decision not to replace $655 million in federal stimulus money even as he cut an additional $355 million in state funds from public schools in his first budget, 2011-12, which also saw cuts to universities. The cuts led to staff layoffs, program cuts and higher local property taxes or fees.
In the years that followed, Corbett did little to help voters forget the cuts.
Corbett blamed teachers and school boards while giving angry or lukewarm defense of the cuts, but failed to connect with voters on why the money was reduced as mandatory pension payments rose to cover a backlog of debt he inherited.
But Mike Crossey, president of the 180,000-member Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said in an interview that Corbett’s cuts were real and painful.
“Our members understood Tom Corbett hurt our [school] kids and we were moving in the wrong direction,” Crossey said. “Our members responded.”
Democrat Ashley Shellhaus had no trouble deciding to vote for Wolf.
“We need supporters of education,” said Shellhaus, who teaches in the Bethlehem Area School District. “We need to reform our government into prioritizing and putting the needs of children first.”
It also bothers her that as Pennsylvania struggles to fund its schools, Corbett refused to enact an severance tax on natural gas drillers, which estimates show could produce at least $500 million in new revenue.
Upper Saucon Republican Patty Durics, a public school teacher, said she voted for Wolf because Corbett’s education cuts have pushed up class sizes at her elementary school. She’s also worried about her public school pension, which Corbett has repeatedly blamed for the state’s money woes.
Excerpted from: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/elections/mc-pa-governor-election-wolf-corbett-20141104-story.html#page=1