This much is certain: A man who calls Allegheny County home will be this state's next governor. The question now: Can Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, a Democrat, overcome the consistent lead held in the polls by the Republican front-runner, state Attorney General Tom Corbett, when the votes are tallied today?
There were times on the campaign trail this year that Corbett and Onorato seemed to share similar positions. Both said they were interested in some sort of voucher to help students in failing schools use public money to pay for private tuition. Both think early childhood education funding is important. Both think the process of establishing a business and obtaining permits in the state should be simplified.
But Corbett and Onorato differ on a key issue that will impact the state's coffers for decades to come -- whether to tax the natural gas extracted from the massive Marcellus Shale that spans the state. Corbett insists on no severance tax, saying that could harm an industry that could create 80,000 jobs in the state, although ever state with extensive drilling has such a tax. Onorato insists on a tax that is competitive with other states, though he refuses to say how much, and would limit use of the funds for environmental regulation, infrastructure repairs and open land preservation.
The two candidates have also sparred on gun control measures, like closing the loophole that allows Florida to issue by mail permits to carry concealed weapons to Pennsylvania residents, even if they have been turned down for permits in their home counties. Corbett says Florida procedures are just as strict as Pennsylvania. Onorato calls it crazy to allow one state to issue gun permits for another.
A Quinnipiac University Poll released yesterday showed Corbett holding a 10 point lead over Onorato, 52-42 percent.