2008-11-20 / Local & State

Would-Be Pa. Governors Already Lining Up For 2010

By Peter Jackson ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvanians won't elect their next governor for two years, but signs are popping up all over that the 2010 campaign is already in progress.

In Miami, state Attorney General Tom Corbett and Patrick Meehan, the former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, were among gubernatorial prospects from across the country honored as "VIP guests'' at the Republican Governors Association meeting this week, according to GOP consultant Mark Holman, who also attended. Both veteran prosecutors have been publicly coy about their political intentions.

In Harrisburg, state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, a former York County businessman and generous Democratic campaign donor, said he was stepping down after nearly two years in Gov. Ed Rendell's Cabinet to pursue "another option in public service.'' Wolf refused to elaborate, but has previously expressed interest in running for governor.

In Philadelphia, businessman Tom Knox, who pumped $12 million of his own money into his 2007 mayoral campaign before he lost the city's Democratic primary to now-Mayor Michael Nutter, has already put up a "Knox for Governor'' Web site.

But those are only the most visible manifestations of what could be a crowded campaign.

"The race for governor begins probably ... right after the new year,'' said Terry Madonna, a pollster and professor from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

In the GOP, Corbett's political capital was recently reinforced by his decisive statewide re-election victory in a year when Pennsylvania voters dealt Republican presidential nominee John McCain a resounding defeat.

Corbett had the benefit of leading a high-profile investigation into allegations that state legislators and their aides funneled millions of dollars of public money and resources into political campaigns. A dozen people connected to the House Democratic caucus face criminal charges, and Corbett has said he anticipates more arrests.

Meehan, as chief federal prosecutor for southeastern Pennsylvania, has good-government credentials of his own.

He cracked down on corruption in Philadelphia's city government and oversaw the four-year probe that resulted in scores of criminal charges against once-powerful Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, whose trial is continuing.

Another potential Republican candidate is Pat Toomey, the former congressman who nearly unseated Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary and is now president of the conservative Club for Growth in Washington.

"He hasn't ruled it out,'' Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said Friday.

On the Democratic side, two elected county executives _ Dan Onorato of Allegheny County and Don Cunningham of Lehigh County - have been quietly raising money and courting supporters for months.

Onorato was re-elected last year, while Cunningham, Rendell's former secretary of general services, faces a re-election campaign next year as the gubernatorial race heats up.

Also seriously considering a campaign is Jack Wagner, who was reelected as state auditor general in the Nov. 4 election. The former state senator from Pittsburgh said he would make a decision in the first few months of 2009.

The primary will be in May 2010 and, he said, "you would certainly have to be out front publicly a year in advance of that.''

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