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Politics & Government

History-Making Campaign For Governor Comes To Vote

The polls have opened in Pennsylvania's history-making race for governor.

Voters are deciding between Democrat Tom Wolf and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in an election that will settle who will govern the state for the next four years after a campaign that smashed the state's spending record.

Wolf, a first-time candidate who ran his family business for nearly three decades, is trying to make Corbett the first governor in modern Pennsylvania political history to lose a re-election campaign. Corbett, a former state and federal prosecutor, is seeking four more years as governor after being plagued with low approval ratings throughout his first term.

Polls are open until 8 p.m. | Voter's Guide | Complete Election Coverage

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UPDATE 8:32 p.m.: Exit Poll: Corbett Lost Support Among All Groups

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett lost support across the board in seeking a second term, preliminary exit poll results showed Tuesday. In contrast to his successful 2010 race, the governor lost votes among men, women, all age groups and all income levels.

His Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, a York businessman and political newcomer, got a strong backing from voters under 50, with about 6 in 10 casting ballots for him, according to preliminary results from the exit poll conducted Tuesday.

The poll of 1,623 voters showed that most of Corbett's support came from central Pennsylvania, where voters gave him a slight advantage. Heavily Democratic Philadelphia and its suburbs solidly backed Wolf, and he also held a narrow lead in the northeast part of the state.

Wolf also carried an apparent lead in the western part of the state, which includes the Pittsburgh suburbs where Corbett lives. Corbett had carried 58 percent of the western vote four years ago.

— The Associated Press

UPDATE: 3:26 p.m.: Campaign Spending Smashed PA's Previous Record

With Democrat Tom Wolf leading independent polls, Gov. Tom Corbett's campaign pointed to a narrowing gap as evidence of momentum. In the last few weeks, the Corbett campaign accused Wolf of planning a massive middle-class tax increase to fulfill his spending promises and being a political clone of President Barack Obama.

Wolf accused Corbett of delivering devastating funding cuts to public schools and mismanaging the state's economic and fiscal affairs. Wolf said he would increase income taxes on the wealthy to deliver a middle-class tax cut; Corbett contended that the disappearance of federal aid should not count against him as a cut in education funding.

Overall campaign spending broke the $70 million mark and smashed Pennsylvania's previous campaign spending record. Despite that, pollsters expected fewer than 50 percent of registered voters will cast ballots.

Many eyes were on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's liberal bastion and home to more than 1 million of the state's 8.3 million voters.

Democrats hope for a 350,000- to 400,000-vote victory for Wolf in Philadelphia to more than offset any edge Corbett will get from more conservative voters in the rest of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia's four suburban counties — Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery — with 1.6 million voters also will be a key bellwether.

Voters also were deciding Tuesday who should occupy Pennsylvania's 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next two years. All but two incumbents were seeking re-election and no one expected the Republicans' 13-seat majority to change. In the state Legislature, all 203 House seats and half of the 50 Senate seats were up for grabs. Republicans expected to pad their majorities in both chambers.

— The Associated Press

UPDATE 1:12 p.m.: Voter Turnout 'Brisk' in Allegheny County

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Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA
Vote here: A sign directs voters at Pittsburgh Montessori School in Friendship.

About  427,300 Allegheny County residents turned out to vote in the 2010 gubernatorial election — but what will 2014 bring?

Allegheny County voter turnout was about 47.81 percent in 2010 and 47 percent in Pennsylvania as a whole.

So far, 2014’s turnout appears to be “brisk” in Allegheny County, according to County Elections Director Mark Wolosik.

Chris White, a South Side resident, said his voting experience at the Presbyterian Church on Sarah Street was fast.

“It actually went really well," White said. "I was expecting big lines. I’ve never voted in Pittsburgh. I just moved up here. Everyone was really helpful, it went pretty smoothly, and I’m excited that I got to vote this morning.”

He was not willing to share who he voted for, but he said it is an important step to promote change.

“I just think people are often quick to complain or criticize the current situation with either their state or national government,” White said. “So if you’re going to complain, and you want to see change, you’ve got to go out and vote, even if you don’t think it counts, it certainly does.”

Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus voted at the same location at around 9:30 a.m.

“I’ve been to one, two, three, four, about five polls now, and each one has broken about a hundred, so that’s really actually quite promising at this time of day,” Kraus said. “But it’s a perfect day, it’s a great day for people to be out and about, and it’s a great day to be out and about at the polls.”

Kraus said he hasn’t heard about any issues with polling machines.

“Those of course are county functions,” Kraus said. “If and when we hear of anything that might be up with a voting machine in any way, of course we report it to the board of elections, but so far nothing, just good things, positive energy, people out, looks like people are largely in a good mood, and they’re out to vote.”

And so was Kraus – he said he cast his ballot for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf.

Niles Young, an East Side resident, said he also voted for Wolf.

“He seems like he has a plan going for everybody, (to) make everything work out for all the Democrats,” Young said.

He cast his ballot at the East Hills School, which he said had about a hundred people in it around 8 a.m.

“Everything went pretty fine, things went smooth, it started getting packed in there,” Young said. “So you might want to get in there before it gets too packed.”

Wolosik said the Allegheny County Division of Elections will not have exact voter turnout numbers Tuesday. He said the only problem at the polling places so far was that a poll worker in Penn Hills overslept.

— Jessica Nath and Julian Routh

UPDATE 11:29 a.m.: Corbett and Wolf Encourage People To Vote

Gov. Tom Corbett voted in his home of Shaler, in suburban Pittsburgh, before dropping in on area polling places.

Democratic challenger Tom Wolf started in Philadelphia, shaking hands and posing for pictures as he walked through a commuter rail station near City Hall. A local councilman encouraged people to step right up and "meet the next governor."

After a few more stops he was heading 80 miles west to vote in his home of Mount Wolf, named after an ancestor.

"I get the sense people really want a change," Wolf said.

Brett Hauber in Allentown said he cast his vote for Wolf, citing the Democrat's support for a 5 percent state tax on natural gas drilling. Corbett has favored the existing system, which imposes a $50,000 impact fee per well and directs revenue into communities affected by drilling.

"For me, it's a protest vote against Corbett," said Hauber, a 45-year-old economist.

"The natural gas is going to be extracted anyway, so all of the arguments that it's going to cost jobs, I don't buy it," he added. "It sounds like cronyism and currying favor with the natural gas industry."

Monica Glenn, a stay-at-home mom with four children, said she voted for Corbett, in part, because of his increases in special education funding and support of charter schools. She also said he'll tackle pension reform for state employees.

"It's a huge problem in this state," the 44-year-old Glenn said. "There's such a disparity between the private sector and the public sector."

— The Associated Press