Primary Challenge for Governor Corbett ?
For the past year we have heard rumblings in Republican circles about "one term Tom", countered by the PA GOP leaderships plan to support Gov. Corbett in 2014.
Rumblings are common place and the power of incumbency can not be understated or dismissed. However, it appears that these rumblings may very well blossom into a real primary challenge.
Pennsylvaniaconservative.com today released a two part article entitled, "Commissioner Castor: The Clear, Common Sense, Conservative Choice Over Corbett " .
"Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor sent the Pennsylvania political community into a frenzy when he announced he was considering a primary bid against incumbent Governor Tom Corbett. It was hailed by some as the “most serious” primary challenge to any Governor in the history of the Commonwealth."
"Immediately after being sworn in as Governor, Tom Corbett demurred on the possibility of making Pennsylvania a Right to Work state and promptly went into hiding. As the fight for School Choice raged in the capitol, the Governor seemed to be in the Witness Protection Program."
The article outlines the Governors failure to lead and act on Privatization of state liquor stores, Right to Work legislation, Strike Free education, School vouchers and Property Tax elimination..
It also recounts the Governor's political stunt last year: " the Governor summoned each state committee member, one by one, to a closed door meeting where he strong-armed them to support his choice for Senate. Some were threatened with primary challenges, others were told that they would not receive government contracts for their business. It was back room, machine politics at its worst." To say that this action resulted in the alienation of many of the state party members would be an understatement.
In fact, the Governor himself became an issue in the 2012 elections,
" During the fall election season, the Democratic statewide row office candidates all campaigned on one thing: holding Tom Corbett accountable. The election was framed as a referendum on the Governor. The Democrats won by a healthy margin statewide and the Republicans lost three seats in the State Senate."
This can not be overlooked or under stated. In the 2012 Primary, Democratic primary voters were less than entused with their candidates for President and US Senate. President Obama had a 13% under vote (no challenger) and Senator Casey had a 20.7% under vote against an unknown challenger who spent $5000. on a statewide race.
The race of interest which drew the most votes in the primary was for Attorney General. The winner of the primary, Kathleen Kane, who had President Clinton stumping for her, made holding Governor Corbett to account her central theme. And this race inspired voters to turn out in November and carried the ticket to victory.
What was Governor Corbett doing in the meantime? Alienating those who supported him. In September, one of Corbett's big money donors came out slamming the Governor for his lack of leadership.
"Tom Corbett came to Harrisburg with no practical business experience," Wagner wrote. "He is an attorney who methodically worked his way through the political ranks by gaining favor with party leaders.
He continued: "The bottom line is this. There is no substitute for leadership. Successful business owners provide leadership every day. For the sake of PA’s prosperity, Gov. Corbett had better figure this out, or else a historic opportunity for our state will be lost, and he will be a one term governor."
The Governor's office turned around and issued the following statement to the press:
If the response ended there, I would understand the "defensive strategy/damage control" But it did not. My jaw hit the floor at the following line, a personal attack on his donor. This was beneath the office.
“In the last year and a half, Tom Corbett has closed a $4.2 billion budget deficit, passed two on-time state budgets, saved the unemployment compensation system, passed tort reform, saved the Philadelphia refineries, made strides in securing the first-ever ethane petrochemical plant in the northeastern United States, presided over the first growth in manufacturing jobs in a generation, and overseen an economy with 73,000 new jobs, all without tax increases."
“Scott Wagner’s inability to see this as progress," said Harley, "raises valid questions about his ability to identify leadership.”
If it was only the state party rank and file and a major donor, you may be able to shrug it off as acceptable collateral damage. But the Governor has also created his share of riffs with his intervention in negotiations in the Legislature on key pieces of legislation. One such example was with the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee legislation when the Governor came in to the negotiations and went straight to the bottom line.
Add in the firing of Joe Paterno and any part that voters may believe the Governor had, his role as Attorney General and the Sandusky case and you have Penn State alumni of all political stripes irate at the Governor for how they perceive he handled or mishandled the case. Understand , the facts in the how he handled the case are very secondary to the public perception. Again, Mrs. Kane's promise to investigate his actions leave a perception that he bungled it.
In conclusion, the Pennsylvania Conservative cites a very relevant fact, "In mid January, Public Policy Polling found 49 percent of Republican Primary voters preferred someone other than Corbett to be their standard bearer."
This this high of a percentage of Republican voters dismayed with the Governor on the rebound of the 2012 election, I anticipate there to be serious grass roots efforts to gain control of the Republican State Committee in 2014. If the party endorses the Governor in a strong arming display similar to 2012's, look for Chairman Gleason to be the next target.
The stage is set for a serious primary challenge to the Governor. Whether it will be Bruce Castor or someone else remains to be seen. Whomever it is, if anyone, will first need the cash to be able to run a statewide campaign complete with media. Until that occurs, there is no serious challenge, just rumbling and grumbling.