WHEN ED RENDELL arrived in Harrisburg as governor, he was a guy used to getting his own way. He had fought - and dealt- his way to a Philadelphia turnaround, which should have been good training for getting the General Assembly to knuckle under and give him his way.
Eight years later, his famous appetite - for sparring and for food - has been revised downward: as he has grown physically leaner, so too have his wins against state Republicans, most recently on a gas-extraction tax.
The next governor will need to have a hefty appetite, too: for tough budget decisions, for dealing with a looming pension crisis, and for breaking through to real reform of a partisan-locked General Assembly, which doesn't try very hard -and does a mediocre job when it does.
Dan Onorato has insisted throughout his campaign that he's not Ed Rendell. We buy it. Onorato is a different kind of Democrat- one who has a bigger appetite for rethinking government.
That's why we support him for governor.
His track record as executive of Allegheny County has given him firsthand experience grappling with government change; his reforms involved consolidating city and county services, and eliminating positions and row offices; and he talks convincingly and concretely of how he'd streamline Harrisburg.
He's smart, energetic and well-versed on the issues. Like us, he supports a gas-extraction tax, an end to the Florida loophole, and a reform agenda that includes term limits, a smaller Legislature, and a prohibition on lawmakers' giving themselves raises.
State Attorney General Tom Corbett has been collecting scalps of lawmakers and staffers in the Bonusgate investigation and he deserves credit for these results - though we question the propriety of his investigating while campaigning. His results haven't led to any strong articulation of reform in Harrisburg. He joins his fellow Republicans in an aversion to a gas-extraction tax, though he outshines them in contributions from the industry: $700,000 according to a recent report. His signature on a no-tax pledge and his simplistic approach to meeting the budget challenges by vague notions of cutting spending show a naivete and strike us as stubbornly resistant to a new reality.
Most of us are trying hard to adjust to the "new normal" imposed by the economic meltdown: fewer jobs, few returns on investments, fewer choices.
State governments like ours seem not to have acknowledged the new shrunken world, but we believe Onorato is best equipped to lead the state in 21st-century terms.
In the end, he's our pick for governor in part because he's hungry for it. *