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Politics & Government

Tom Wolf's Election Bid Fueled By Cash And GOP Stumbles

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AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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The Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania launched his political campaign with a television ad blitz and has never trailed in the polls in the race against incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.

Tom Wolf has been knocked as a tax-and-spend liberal with ill-defined policy plans, but the biggest question is how he’ll work with a Legislature likely to remain in GOP control. The York County businessman points to his experience serving his community in the midstate as his credentials.

On the campaign trail Wolf has made education advocates gleeful with promises to pump more money into Pennsylvania schools by taxing natural gas drillers and the wealthy. He’s attracted the support of organized labor by swearing off any changes to the state and public school pension benefits. And he’s voiced interest in a crackdown on corporate tax loopholes that goes beyond what state lawmakers have done. 

He also likes to tout his business acumen. He rebuilt his family’s construction products distribution business after the recession, and he says he can also rebuild the state. 

“I’m probably the best thing that can happen for people who want to create good jobs in Pennsylvania,” Wolf often says while stumping.

It doesn’t fall on deaf ears with Bob Jensenius — he knows Wolf from their time working at the York Chamber of Commerce. Jensenius says for years the GOP and business community were looking for a candidate with private sector experience.

“That’s Tom Wolf to a ‘T,’” said Jensenius about the Democratic candidate who is attracting Republican voters. “I think what gives some Republicans heartburn is when they take a look at his contributor list and see the fact that a lot of dollars are coming in from organized labor ... that’s where the conundrum lies in the minds of many Republicans.”

If elected, Wolf would walk into a dismal budget situation and a potentially hostile Legislature. But if Wolf is worried, he’s not saying so.

“I think my insights and my skills prepare me really well to get things done in Harrisburg," Wolf during a recent televised debate. "I don’t think I’m going to have gridlock.”

Mark Platts says he’s seen Wolf’s management style firsthand as executive director of the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area. He says he “hears everybody out” and is always looking to find commonalities among individuals.