Pennsylvanians Pick Corbett's Challenger in Primary

by | May 20, 2014

By Thomas Fitzgerald

Pennsylvania Democrats will go to the polls Tuesday to choose a nominee to take on Gov. Corbett after a sometimes-ugly primary campaign that has cost more than $31 million before the final bills are totaled.

Tom Wolf, a York County businessman, has led in public-opinion surveys and has outspent his three rivals, mostly thanks to $10 million he contributed to his campaign.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, state Treasurer Rob McCord, and former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty were trying to play catch-up to Wolf, who seized an early lead with a massive TV-advertising blitz.

Corbett, a Republican, is unopposed in his party's primary. He begins the general election campaign rated as one of the most vulnerable incumbent governors in the nation, and his party already has begun spending ad money on the race.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. An estimated one million registered Democrats, or 25 percent of the total, are expected to cast ballots for governor, a turnout in the range of the last two contested Democratic gubernatorial primaries.

In Southeastern Pennsylvania, voters will choose party nominees in two congressional districts.

Voters also will decide nearly four dozen contested primaries statewide for seats in the General Assembly, where both chambers are controlled by Republicans. Half the 50 Senate seats and all 203 House seats are up for election this year.

Five experienced Democratic officeholders are seeking the nomination Tuesday for lieutenant governor. They are: former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown; Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski; State Rep. Brandon Neuman of Canonsburg; Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith; and State Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia.

Four Democrats are fighting for the nomination in the 13th Congressional District, which straddles the Montgomery County-Philadelphia border. The seat is coming open because Schwartz chose not to seek reelection to it.

Former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies, who held the seat in the mid-1990s, faces vigorous challenges from State Sen. Daylin Leach, physician Valerie Arkoosh, and State Rep. Brendan Boyle.

Margolies, whose son is married to Chelsea Clinton, turned to the former first family for support. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have held fund-raisers for her.

The winner will square off in the fall against the winner of the GOP race between retired U.S. Air Force Col. Beverly Plosa-Bowser and businessman Carson "Dee" Adcock.

In Bucks County, two Democrats are battling for the chance to oust U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick in the Eighth District. Kevin Strouse, a former Army Ranger and CIA analyst, and Shaughnessy Naughton, a cancer researcher turned businesswoman, are trying to reclaim a seat Democrats once held.

Among the state legislators facing primary fights are three sitting Philadelphia lawmakers, all Democrats, who are under ethics clouds.

State Sen. Leanna Washington, whose Fourth District is split nearly evenly between Philadelphia and Montgomery County, is facing charges of allegedly using her legislative staff to work on a campaign fund-raiser. She has two opponents in what may be the most competitive race of her 21-year legislative career, Cheltenham Township Commissioner Art Haywood and community organizer Brian Gralnick.

State Rep. Vanessa Brown, who represents the 190th District, was among four Philadelphia lawmakers captured on recordings accepting money or gifts as part of a long-running sting investigation by the state Attorney General's Office. No charges have been brought in the case. Brown has two primary challengers, Wanda Logan and Isaac N. Patterson V.

State Rep. J.P. Miranda, of the 197th District in the city, is awaiting trial on charges of allegedly funneling taxpayer money through a ghost employee to his sister. He faces three challengers, including former City Councilman Ben Ramos.

In Delaware County, two Democrats are looking to unseat Rep. Margo Davidson, who made history in 2010 when she took office as the first African American woman in the county elected to the legislature. Davidson, who represents the 164th District, is seen as vulnerable because she voted with Republicans on bills to restrict abortion clinics and expand school vouchers.

In Philadelphia, Sen. Tina Tartaglione, a Democrat who represents the Second District, has two primary challengers -- Danny Savage and Tomas Sanchez.

City voters will also decide a special election for an at-large City Council seat and three proposed amendments to the City Charter. Voting on those decisions is open to all registered Philadelphia voters regardless of party affiliation.

Democrats are backing State Rep. Ed Neilson -- whose Northeast Philadelphia district was eliminated in legislative redistricting -- in the special election to fill a seat on City Council. The Council post was vacated by Bill Green when Corbett named him chairman of the School Reform Commission. Neilson's Republican opponent is lawyer Matthew Wolfe.

One charter change proposal would authorize Council to pass legislation setting minimum-wage and benefits standards for subcontractors on city contracts.

The second would end the rule that Philadelphia elected officials must resign from office to run for another position.

Question 3 asks whether Council approval should be required for issuing of city contracts related to hiring lawyers for indigent defendants and other litigants when a conflict prevents the Public Defender's Office from handling the case.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer