The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 20, 2012

Handicapping Pennsylvania's 2014 gubernatorial field

Pennsylvanians might reasonably expect that the political world would take a breather from campaigns following almost two years of nonstop presidential campaigning. Everyone should be ready for a rest from campaigning that nationally ran more than

1 million commercials and spent an estimated $6 billion.

Silly you!

In fact, the next political campaign is already under way – it started the day after the presidential election. We speak, of course, of the already-frenzied maneuvering for position in the Keystone state’s upcoming 2014 gubernatorial election.

For the first time in modern times, an incumbent governor is all but certain to face serious opposition for re-election. Some of it might come from his Republican Party; more of it will likely come from opposition Democrats.

Without further ado, these are the names most likely to surface in the next several weeks and months as Pennsylvania prepares to elect its next governor.

Republican candidates

Tom Corbett: Corbett enters the race as the weakest incumbent for re-election since 1970, when governors became eligible to run for a second term. His job performance numbers in many recent polls are in the mid-30s, and his budget cuts have drawn heavy fire from both Democrats and Republicans.

Moreover, some blame his political leadership for the Republican Party’s poor statewide showing in November’s election.

Compounding the governor’s problems is the debate over his handling of the notorious Jerry Sandusky investigation while he served as attorney general. The incoming attorney general has promised a thorough review of that case.

Yet, for all this trouble, Corbett still is arguably the favorite in 2014. As incumbent, he commands enormous organizational, financial and political resources to support his re-election. In addition, Pennsylvanians seem to prefer electing governors from the party out of power in Washington.

Corbett’s possible opponents: The GOP’s prospect of losing control of the governorship raises the possibility incumbent Corbett will draw a primary opponent. The question is who might actually do it.

After November’s election, there are no Republican statewide office holders available to launch a possible challenge. Consequently, the most likely Corbett opponents would be state lawmakers, including perhaps the majority leader of the state House, Mike Turzai, or the majority leader of the state Senate, Dominic Pleggi, or chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Jake Corman.

But legislative gubernatorial candidacies historically have been problematic even in open seat races.

Outside possibilities: Other GOP possibilities are sparse. No incumbent Republican congressman is likely to challenge Corbett, and the big-city mayors are Democrats. One outside possibility is the emergence of an independently wealthy “outside” challenger as we have just seen in the U.S. senate race. But more likely, Corbett gets a “pass” free from serious opposition and an unobstructed path to renomination.

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