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November 20, 2012

Handicapping Pennsylvania's 2014 gubernatorial field


Democratic candidates

Moving from possible Republicans to possible Democrats, the list grows exponentially. Not a few Republicans worry that Corbett could be defeated, but far more than a few Democrats are certain of it.

At least 12 Democrats are potential Corbett opponents, and the number could grow. Here, in no particular order, are those now believed to be among the strongest contenders:

Ed Rendell: Former governor, current pundit and sports commentator. Few doubt that Rendell would be a formidable opponent in 2014, but he has consistently ruled himself out.

Rob McCord: Incumbent state treasurer, prolific fundraiser, skilled campaigner and possibly the favorite of the Demo-crat establishment. His largest handicap now is probably lack of statewide name recognition.

Kathleen Kane: Newly elected attorney general, proven campaigner, one of the more exciting political figures to emerge on the state scene in many years. Her inexperience in state politics might be her biggest challenge, and she would be in office only a few months before announcing.

Former Congressman Joe Sestak: Darling of state progressives, an impressive, impassioned campaigner and proven fundraiser. Sestak’s U.S. Senate loss in 2010 may hurt him, but he brings considerable assets to the race.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey: The son of a popular two-term governor, now twice elected to the  Senate, and a grassroots favorite among rank-and-file Democrats. Casey seems highly unlikely to run. If he did run, however, he would prove difficult to defeat.

Josh Shapiro: Current chairman of the Montgomery County commissioners, draws high marks because of his leadership in the state’s third-largest county. He is widely recognized as a future statewide candidate, but his youth probably means he waits a few years more.

To this “A” list of potential Democrats can be added additional prospective candidates either less likely to run or somewhat less likely to win.

Among this group is Congresswoman Allison Schwartz, Philadelphia businessman Tom Knox, state Sen. Daylin Leach, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Auditor General-elect Eugene DePasquale and former gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato.

This is the preliminary lineup for both parties. Two years is several lifetimes in politics and much can change between now and November 2014.

What’s unlikely to change, however, is that Pennsylvania is poised to have its most spirited gubernatorial re-election campaign in more than half a century.

G. Terry Madonna, Ph.D., is professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. Michael Young, Ph.D., is a former professor of politics and public affairs at Penn State University and is managing partner of Michael Young Strategic Research.


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