Thursday, December 25, 2014

Call him Gov. Corbett

Republican Tom Corbett has been named the winner in the Pennsylvania governor´s race. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Republican Tom Corbett has been named the winner in the Pennsylvania governor's race. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Republican Tom Corbett has been named the winner in the Pennsylvania governor´s race. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Gallery: Scenes from Election Day

Republican Tom Corbett, the state's veteran attorney general, defeated Democrat Dan Onorato Tuesday in Pennsylvania's nationally watched race for governor.

Corbett's win heralded an era of GOP rule in Harrisburg. Republicans will control not only the governor's office, but also both chambers of the legislature, having won a majority of state House seats on Tuesday and retained a big edge in the state Senate.

A gubernatorial marathon that started in the blizzards of winter - and that saw the two nominees spend more than $50 million between them - came down to a question of which side could better motivate its loyalists to turn out on a perfect fall day.

With most of the votes counted, Corbett and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Bucks County Commissioner Jim Cawley, had a solid, persistent edge in the tallies.

More coverage
  • Live results: Key Pa./N.J. races, plus Congress
  • Gallery: Election Day scenes
  • Video: Scenes from the Famous 4th St. deli
  • Video: New Jersey voters talk about the election
  • Video: Election Day luncheon in West Oak Lane
  • PhillyClout blog: Election coverage
  • Streaming video: Live from 12 campaign locations
  • Onorato, the Allegheny County executive, and his No. 2, State Rep. Scott Conklin of Centre County, were undone by what political analyst Jack Tready, a retired political scientist at Kutztown University, called a foul year for Democrats.

    But Onorato ran well behind Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee for the Senate, a sign he did not run the best of campaigns, Treadway said.

    "Onorato never focused on an issue," he said. "He just jumped from issue to issue."

    Exit polls showed Corbett favored among whites (60 percent), men (58 percent), voters 65 and older (61 percent), and voters with incomes above $30,000 (mid-50 percent range).

    Typically of Democratic candidates, Onorato narrowly won the women's vote, according to the exit polls. But 55 percent of white women favored Corbett, not a good sign for Onorato. He was ahead among African American voters in general, lower-income voters, and young voters.

    Corbett, 61, a native of the Pittsburgh suburbs and a two-time victor in previous statewide campaigns, awaited results at the Omni William Penn, a marble-halled grand hotel in his city's downtown.

    Onorato, 49, a newcomer to statewide politics but a 19-year local official, sweated out the evening across the Monongahela River at a union hall on Pittsburgh's South Side.

    Trailing in preelection surveys, Onorato needed a big turnout in Philadelphia, which has the state's largest concentration of Democratic voters.

    Both Republicans and Democrats were encouraged by some signs of voter interest in their traditional strongholds around the state.

    Temple University junior Gaby Chavez, who voted Democratic, said the number of big-name politicians who had visited the school - including President Obama during the weekend - helped promote the election.

    "There's been a lot of hype on campus," she said.

    Democrats always said all they needed to win was for Democratic voters to turn out. The state's 4.5 million Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1.2 million.

    The biggest factor may have been what was often called the "enthusiasm gap." Surveys showed that GOP voters were fed up, fired up, and ready to vote out the people in power. Democrats, by contrast, appeared a bit dispirited and uninterested.

    Corbett's double-digit lead in the polls began to narrow two or three weeks ago as Democrats started to focus on the race.

    A Corbett victory continued a half-century-old tradition in which Republicans and Democrats have traded the governor's office every eight years.

    He is the first attorney general to become governor since Pennsylvania began electing its top prosecutor under a constitutional change in 1980.

    After getting three million votes in his 2008 reelection as attorney general - more than any GOP candidate for any office in state history - he became his party's obvious choice to for governor.

    State Republican leaders cleared a path for Corbett to receive the GOP endorsement in February. But one Republican - State Rep. Sam Rohrer of Berks County, a favorite of hard-core conservatives - refused to step aside.

    Though Rohrer lost in the primary by a wide margin, some of his followers wrote in his name Tuesday.

    Corbett long had a reputation as a moderate. Rohrer's candidacy was thought to have helped push Corbett to take some quite conservative positions.

    He joined a dozen other attorneys general in a constitutional challenge to the Obama health-care legislation.

    He also took a pledge not to raise any taxes or fees. That included a severance tax on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale - a levy that Onorato, Gov. Rendell, other Democrats, and even a few Republicans now support to one degree or another.

    Even former Gov. Tom Ridge, Corbett's GOP mentor, said recently that a severance tax was reasonable and would not raise gas rates. But Corbett stuck to his position under relentless attack from Onorato, who called him a no-tax extremist.

    A lifelong prosecutor, Corbett ran on an image of integrity, enhanced by his successful prosecution of 10 current or former state officeholders and employees on corruption charges in the investigation known as Bonusgate.

    But his unfamiliarity with issues of state government - transportation, energy, the environment - often showed. Onorato, who had dealt with many such issues as the Allegheny County executive, felt he won each of the three campaign debates.

    But Corbett did enough in the debates to hold his own. And the camera loved him, with his thick white hair and ruddy complexion.

    If Onorato won, he would be the first Pittsburgh Democrat to become governor since David L. Lawrence, a mayor of that city, in 1958.

    In recent weeks, Onorato began to talk more and more about fiscal responsibility and holding the line on taxes, except for a levy on natural gas.

    He didn't stop talking about the power of government help to grow the economy. But a lot of the debate seemed to be on Republican ground - cut spending, hold the line on taxes.

    U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the Philadelphia Democratic Party chairman, said Tuesday he feared Democrats had not done a good job of presenting their message to voters.

    "We did not 'PR' things properly," Brady said at his 34th Ward headquarters in the Overbrook section. "From the stimulus to the bailout to health-care reform, our message was not strong enough."

    In the suburbs, famous for ticket-splitting voters, Corbett counted on support in areas that used to be solidly Republican but have trended Democratic in registration lately, and in recent elections.

    He found it in Joe Romano, 50 of Wayne, who called himself a "middle guy" - not a strong supporter of either party. Though a registered Republican who said he'd voted for Corbett, Romano gave the nod to Democrats in some other races.

    "There is too much animosity between the parties," he said. "They are more about fighting with each other than providing any public service."

    Contact staff writer Tom Infield at 610-313-8205.

    Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article.

    Republican Tom Corbett, the state's veteran attorney general, defeated Democrat Dan Onorato Tuesday in Pennsylvania's nationally watched race for governor.

    A marathon that started in the blizzards of winter - and that saw the two nominees spend more than $50 million between them - came down to a question of which side could better motivate its loyalists to turn out on a perfect fall day.

    With most of the votes counted, Corbett and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Bucks County Commissioner Jim Cawley, had a slim, but persistent edge.

    Onorato, the Allegheny County executive, and his No. 2, State Rep. Scott Conklin of Centre County, still hoped to make up ground as tallies dribbled in from some areas and poured in from others.

    Exit polls showed Corbett favored among whites (60 percent), men (58 percent), voters 65 and older (61 percent), and voters with incomes above $30,000 (mid-50 percent range).

    Typically of Democratic candidates, Onorato narrowly won the women's vote, according to the exit polls. But 55 percent of white women favored Corbett, not a good sign for Onorato. He was ahead among African American voters in general, lower-income voters, and young voters.

    Corbett, 61, a native of the Pittsburgh suburbs and a two-time victor in previous statewide campaigns, awaited results at the Omni William Penn, a marble-halled grand hotel in his city's downtown.

    Onorato, 49, a newcomer to statewide politics but a 19-year local official, sweated out the evening across the Monongahela River at a union hall on Pittsburgh's South Side.

    Trailing in preelection surveys, Onorato needed a big turnout in Philadelphia, which has the state's largest concentration of Democratic voters.

    Both Republicans and Democrats were encouraged by some signs of voter interest in their traditional strongholds around the state.

    Temple University junior Gaby Chavez, who voted Democratic, said the number of big-name politicians who had visited the school - including President Obama during the weekend - helped promote the election.

    "There's been a lot of hype on campus," she said.

    But evidence collected at schools and rec centers and other voting places by the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy suggested that city's turnout had not lived up to Democratic hopes.

    The watchdog group sampled 56 divisions in three wards in West Philly. Only two divisions reported more than a 30 percent turnout close to dinner time. Rendell had said he wanted a 50 percent city turnout by the times polls closed at 8.

    Democrats always said all they needed to win was for Democratic voters to turn out. The state's 4.5 million Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1.2 million.

    The biggest factor may have been what was often called the "enthusiasm gap." Surveys showed that GOP voters were fed up, fired up, and ready to vote out the people in power. Democrats, by contrast, appeared a bit dispirited and uninterested.

    Corbett's double-digit lead in the polls began to narrow two or three weeks ago as Democrats started to focus on the race.

    A Corbett victory would continue a half-century-old tradition in which Republicans and Democrats have traded the governor's office every eight years.

    He would be the first attorney general to become governor since Pennsylvania began electing its top prosecutor under a constitutional change in 1980.

    After getting three million votes in his 2008 reelection as attorney general - more than any GOP candidate for any office in state history - he became his party's obvious choice to for governor.

    State Republican leaders cleared a path for Corbett to receive the GOP endorsement in February. But one Republican - State Rep. Sam Rohrer of Berks County, a favorite of hard-core conservatives - refused to step aside.

    Though Rohrer lost in the primary by a wide margin, some of his followers wrote in his name Tuesday.

    Corbett long had a reputation as a moderate. Rohrer's candidacy was thought to have helped push Corbett to take some quite conservative positions.

    He joined a dozen other attorneys general in a constitutional challenge to the Obama health-care legislation.

    He also took a pledge not to raise any taxes or fees. That included a severance tax on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale - a levy that Onorato, Gov. Rendell, other Democrats, and even a few Republicans now support to one degree or another.

    Even former Gov. Tom Ridge, Corbett's GOP mentor, said recently that a severance tax was reasonable and would not raise gas rates. But Corbett stuck to his position under relentless attack from Onorato, who called him a no-tax extremist.

    A lifelong prosecutor, Corbett ran on an image of integrity, enhanced by his successful prosecution of 10 current or former state officeholders and employees on corruption charges in the investigation known as Bonusgate.

    But his unfamiliarity with issues of state government - transportation, energy, the environment - often showed. Onorato, who had dealt with many such issues as the Allegheny County executive, felt he won each of the three campaign debates.

    But Corbett did enough in the debates to hold his own. And the camera loved him, with his thick white hair and ruddy complexion.

    If Onorato won, he would be the first Pittsburgh Democrat to become governor since David L. Lawrence, a mayor of that city, in 1958.

    In recent weeks, Onorato began to talk more and more about fiscal responsibility and holding the line on taxes, except for a levy on natural gas.

    He didn't stop talking about the power of government help to grow the economy. But a lot of the debate seemed to be on Republican ground - cut spending, hold the line on taxes.

    U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the Philadelphia Democratic Party chairman, said Tuesday he feared Democrats had not done a good job of presenting their message to voters.

    "We did not 'PR' things properly," Brady said at his 34th Ward headquarters in the Overbrook section. "From the stimulus to the bailout to health-care reform, our message was not strong enough."

    In the suburbs, famous for ticket-splitting voters, Corbett counted on support in areas that used to be solidly Republican but have trended Democratic in registration lately, and in recent elections.

    He found it in Joe Romano, 50 of Wayne, who called himself a "middle guy" - not a strong supporter of either party. Though a registered Republican who said he'd voted for Corbett, Romano gave the nod to Democrats in some other races.

    "There is too much animosity between the parties," he said. "They are more about fighting with each other than providing any public service."


    Contact staff writer Tom Infield at 610-313-8205.

    I


    nquirer staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article.

    Tom Infield INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
    Also on Philly.com
    Stay Connected