Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Corbett's ups and downs

From today's Daily News:

Corbett's ups and downs

Gov. Corbett and wife Susan meet farmer Amy Bradford (left) and some of her piglets Saturday at the Farm Show. (Associated Press)
Gov. Corbett and wife Susan meet farmer Amy Bradford (left) and some of her piglets Saturday at the Farm Show. (Associated Press)

From today's Daily News:

OUR GOVERNOR sure has ups and downs.

One week his state's high court blows up a big part of his big Marcellus Shale law.

Another week he has fun at the Farm Show posing for pictures with a pig.

Such is life in executive office.

But as Tom Corbett starts his re-election year, such ups and downs take on added weight.

He's called America's most vulnerable governor. But it's said if Democrats pick front-runner Allyson Schwartz to oppose him, he grabs a second term.

I've listened to the "he can't win." I've heard all the "she can't win."

It's just too soon for absolutes.

The Democratic primary's far from settled. Never count out a well-financed incumbent. And nobody knows what X factors pop up.

Still.

A case can be made that anti-Corbett sentiment seen in multiple polls is so embedded that he's too far down to end up up.

And while incumbency carries benefits, from command of the pulpit to a fundraising edge, this incumbency also has burdens.

I'm not talking just of perceptions that he's insensitive to the poor, minorities and women, aloof, gaffe-prone, anti-public education and generally anti-government.

Believe it or not, like it or not, a well-run, monied campaign can alter almost anything.

And many voters want less government, less spending and no new taxes. (And that new gas tax, I mean, "user fee," Democrats wanted it, too.)

What I'm talking about is a chance Corbett's seen not as someone who won't govern - again, many like those who govern least - but as someone who can't govern.

Corbett's first term is littered with litigation and polarizing issues costing taxpayers tens of millions and suggesting lack of competent legal analysis.

This is ironic given Corbett was Pennsylvania's top legal officer before elected governor.

It's politically detrimental because these issues create coalitions of opponents that get fired up each time there's a hearing, decision or appeal.

And it reminds voters that Corbett's linked to controversy over Penn State, voter IDs, gay marriage, privatizing the lottery and fracking.

He lost an attempt to overturn NCAA sanctions against PSU; and any time Jerry Sandusky makes news (as he did this week seeking to keep his pension), Nittany Nation squirms anew.

The voter ID law remains in litigation after being blocked by courts in three elections. But another decision and another appeal can reload claims that Corbett wants to cut the Democratic vote.

The state's in six same-sex marriage cases, two in federal court, likely to drag through the election year and certain to draw the usual buzz about GOP intolerance.

Commonwealth Court last March ordered the administration to reinstate funding for health insurance for 41,000 low-income Pennsylvanians. The order is under appeal. The issue can underscore perceptions of insensitivity.

The Supreme Court last month outlawed a key part of Corbett's shale-drilling law, delighting environmentalists. His lawyers are asking for reconsideration, something legal experts say is rare to seek, rarer to secure.

His lottery-privatization attempt never got off the ground despite spending $4 million on outside legal/consultant fees.

The administration says outside legal fees for 2013 are not yet totaled, but were $35 million in 2011 and $32 million in 2012.

A spokesman says every effort is made to reduce such costs, noting outside fees in the last year of the Rendell administration totaled $40.5 million.

Corbett general counsel Jim Schultz says "bold initiatives . . . are bound to be challenged" in court. He adds that it's the administration's duty to defend the governor's actions and policies and state laws.

And that's true.

But high-profile losses don't paint a portrait of a winner. And Corbett's ongoing presence, by choice or circumstance, in issues that energize the Democratic base can only be called a down.

Is there an up? He got a transportation bill. If he gets something on pensions, something on booze, he could also get four more years.

Our governor sure has ups and downs.

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
 Follow Chris on Twitter

Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
 Follow Jenny on Twitter.

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