2008-11-13 / Local & State

Rendell Vows To Remain Pa. Governor Through 2010


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Ed Rendell has ruled out taking a job in the Obama administration before his term ends in January 2011, in part because a midterm departure could open the door to a Republican takeover of Pennsylvania state government, his spokesman said Friday.

"Given the tumultuous economic times, he is unlikely to hand over the reins to those who have diametrically opposed philosophic views on the role of government,'' said the spokesman, Chuck Ardo.

Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor and a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary, is frequently mentioned as a possible secretary of Transportation or Energy, federal departments with issues that he has made top priorities during his six years as governor. Ardo said Rendell would seriously consider either job if it were offered down the road.

"He has said repeatedly that he intends to fulfill his obligation as governor and serve out his term,'' Ardo said. "If there's an opportunity to join the Obama administration thereafter, he would give it careful thought.''

Rendell's position is driven as much by politics as a sense of obligation to voters who re-elected him in a 2006 landslide over Republican Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star.

Under the state constitution, Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll would succeed Rendell if he left office prematurely. But Knoll, 78, has been battling neuroendocrine cancer since last summer. She has not worked in her office since September, and she was fighting a viral infection when she was released Tuesday from Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

A former state treasurer who was elected as Rendell's 2002 running mate with 25 percent of the vote in a nine-way primary race, Knoll has been kept at arm's length by the Rendell administration and rarely appears with Rendell at public events.

It is unclear how soon - if at all - she may resume official duties that include presiding over the state Senate.

If Knoll is unable to finish her term, the ranking Republican in the GOP-controlled Senate - currently President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati of Jefferson County - would become lieutenant governor and succeed Rendell if he stepped down.

That is a serious concern for Rendell, a former general chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Rendell has had a tumultuous relationship with the state Senate Republicans.

During his first term, they helped him make good on a campaign promise to legalize slot-machine gambling and use the proceeds to finance property-tax cuts for homeowners. In more recent years, state Senate Republicans have blocked his $1 billion plan to extend statesubsidized health insurance to about 800,000 adults who lack coverage.

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