They once called Tom Ridge “One Term Tom.” He won re-election by more than 25 points. They called Tom Corbett the same thing. He was the first governor to be defeated for re-election.
More recently Tom Wolf has garnered the same aphorism. His fate awaits the judgment of the voters.
Many factors led folks to tag Tom Wolf with the unwanted label early in his administration. Most notable was his constant quest to raise the taxes of every Pennsylvanian.
It was no surprise that Wolf was simultaneously named both the most liberal governor in America and the least popular.
More recently Wolf has been largely out of the headlines and his polling numbers have improved. His position on the Left remains.
There’s plenty of excitement on the Republican side. Four solid candidates, each with a good story of their own, are vying for the opportunity to carry the GOP banner against Wolf:
Ellsworth has served as the Partner in Charge of the Pittsburgh office of Jones Day, a large international law firm. She touts her ability to get things done and points to a long list of leadership positions in civic organizations.
Ellsworth was a relatively late entry in the gubernatorial contest and must make up the ground covered before her arrival. How successful she is at fund-raising and how much self-funding she is able/willing to do won’t be known until year-end reports are filed.
She’s a very capable public speaker and makes a strong impression when she’s on stage side-by-side with the other contenders.
Thus far she’s used that ability to introduce herself and tell her impressive story. The key to her next phase will be how well she connects that story with her vision for the state’s future.
As the only woman in the race, there’s clearly an opportunity for her. She’s got to first convince party leaders and potential donors that she can win.
Mango graduated from West Point, and proudly notes that he received his diploma from Ronald Reagan personally. He went on to serve as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
Following his military service, Mango pursued a career in business. He put in a quarter of a century, much of it directing the Pittsburgh office of consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Mango focused on health care issues, a knowledge base that should be a big asset in a campaign that’s bound to feature health care reform.
Mango’s positioned himself as an “outsider,” criticizing both Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg for “lacking leadership.
Taking a page out of Tom Wolf’s 4-year old book, Mango is already running television ads.
The general rule is that once you go up on television you stay up throughout the campaign. If Mango has the resources to do that and his story connects, he has an opportunity to repeat what Wolf did in 2014.
The latest official entrant, Turzai’s announcement was one of the worst-kept secrets in the Commonwealth.
The challenge for Turzai now is to make up the ground lost while the protracted budget fight required him to stay off the gubernatorial track.
Turzai has been a prolific fundraiser for others. He must now quickly prove that he’s capable of doing it for himself.
Turzai will position himself as the “reformer with results.” He’s got a great story to back up the theme.
While he’s best known as the man that helped us avoid a big tax increase and for his efforts to scrap the archaic liquor monopoly, he’s also successfully championed reforms to curb lawsuit abuse and to promote school choice.
Turzai is, no doubt, the best known among the bunch inside the capitol. He’s not a household name beyond though, and his challenge is to quickly develop the profile, message and campaign organization.
Scott Wagner arrived in Harrisburg as the first Senator ever elected by a write-in vote. He was a force of nature. Almost immediately he began running for governor.
Born and raised in York County, he dropped out of college to start a small business. Through nearly four decades he successfully built several companies. Today he’s the president and owner of Penn Waste and KBS Trucking.
Wagner currently occupies the pole position, largely on the strength of his early and aggressive efforts. He’s already criss-crossed the state, talking with party leaders, activists and donors.
Being the front-runner is not without it’s challenges. Already his opponents are focusing a lot of their fire on him.
Wagner certainly has the resources. Tom Wolf isn’t the only businessman from York capable of self-funding a statewide campaign.
Wagner has positioned himself as an outsider and a fighter against what he sees wrong with Harrisburg. His challenge will be to adopt a tone that is less angry and more optimistic.
Whoever emerges from the May primary, has a tough fight ahead. Tthe fact that there are so many well-qualified, highly capable candidates vying for the right to take on that fight speaks volumes.
Spirited primary competition will let the cream rise to the top. It will hone the skills of each candidate. It will raise the bar for all.
Republicans have a lot of reasons, four in particular, for great optimism in the race for governor.