John Baer: With the wolfpack at the Pa. Society bash

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Gov. Corbett talks with guests during the Pennsylvania Society meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in N.Y. ASHLEE ESPINAL / For The Inquirer

NEW YORK - So I crash a Rob McCord fundraiser at the swanky Four Seasons, on 57th off Park Avenue, and I'm chatting with Kathleen Kane when in walks Tom Wolf.

Not the white-suited uber-author of The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full. That Wolfe has an "e" on his name.

This is the York biz-guy and former Ed Rendell revenue secretary about whom I wrote, when he talked of running to succeed Rendell, that he (Wolf) was "too smart to be governor of Pennsylvania."

So there I am with this interesting trio of Democrats.

McCord, the savvy, energetic, ambitious treasurer is at or near the top of every list of likely opponents to Gov. Corbett.

Kane's the current star of state politics after her lead-the-ticket win for attorney general.

And Wolf (not the novelist) says that this time he's running for guv to win.

Two Dems gearing up to take on Corbett in 2014 and another positioned to potentially take him down - if she finds funny business in a promised probe of how Corbett handled the Sandusky case.

As Wolf approaches Kane and me, I say, "Hey, we were just talking about the Wolf for Governor Committee."

He doesn't miss a beat: "Well, don't let me interrupt."

This is the stuff of the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend: polite, well-dressed banter (except for that bar brawl involving a spilled drink and a gaggle of Society goers at a midtown W Hotel nightclub) and lots of speculation in venues of excess.

Most of this year's chatter centered on which (if any) Democrat has "The Right Stuff" to oust Corbett.

Prodigious Dem-fundraiser Ken Jarin spent some time giving folks 10 seconds to name the party's likely nominee for governor.

While noting that it's early and who knows what happens, Jarin says McCord pops up most often in his informal poll.

Oh, but there's a growing list, some members of which are like Wolfian characters aflame with a case of "the vanities."

Top names such as Bob Casey will tease a run as long as possible while Allyson Schwartz prays that Casey runs, wins and appoints her to his Senate seat.

McCord - who just hired Gary Tuma, former press secretary to Vince Fumo and Rendell - is raising money and watching how Corbett does with the budget, the Legislature and Kane.

Announced candidate John Hanger, also a former Rendell cabinet member, held a reception in a nondescript conference room on the 43rd floor of the Met Life building. The reception and he easily win the weekend's Least Glitzy award.

Tom Knox tells me he's in, adding that the longer the list, the better his chances. I'm thinking, for Knox, the list needs to stretch from Nicetown to Nevada.

Former one-term Erie congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper wants to run, which makes me immediately think "for lieutenant governor."

Philly state Sen. Mike Stack's name is mentioned, and I wonder why.

And a Pentecostal minister in central Pennsylvania, Max Myers, is set to soon announce. It's a candidacy on a wing and a prayer, except without the wing.

There are, or will be, others.

But the weekend that draws so many pols to 60-some parties, receptions, forums and fundraisers (and draws criticism for feeding another state's economy) always produces more hot air than actual news.

As Montco Commissioner Josh Shapiro (another potential guv candidate) put it: "You've got to run for governor of Pennsylvania, not governor of Pennsylvania Society."

Which brings me to Corbett, who faces the tough task of governing, that Kane thing and a possible primary before seeking re-election to prove he's "A Man in Full."

He read a speech in the posh Metropolitan Club at 60th and Fifth Avenue in which he asserted his leadership on transportation and pension funding and privatizing booze.

He said that plans are in the works, details are coming.

As to GOP Montco Commissioner Bruce Castor saying he might challenge Corbett in a primary, the guv just says, "Everybody can dream."

And all those Dems in waiting?

"I can't worry about that," says Corbett. "I have to worry about running a state."

What comes next?

Here's a hint: The title of Tom Wolfe's newest novel is Back to Blood.

 


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