Pa. Dem Gov Candidates Avoid Conflicts At Forum
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Five Democrats who want to become the state’s next governor touted their credentials and took shots at Republican incumbent Tom Corbett on Friday night but avoided criticizing each other at a fast-paced candidates’ forum.
The 90-minute discussion, in a small conference room in a Harrisburg hotel, drew a standing-room-only crowd eager to hear from former state environmental protection secretaries Katie McGinty and John Hanger, state Treasurer Rob Mc- Cord, York businessman Tom Wolf and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.
The candidates roundly criticized Corbett’s threeyear tenure and generally agreed on many issues, including the need for more money for public education, the benefits of expanding the Medicaid program with federal dollars, abortion rights, same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Probably the sharpest disagreement was over a proposal to increase the minimum amount of liability insurance motorists should carry. The minimum was set in 1974, and all the participants except Hanger said it should be increased.
“People need a car to get to work,” and with the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, “folks can’t afford higher premiums,” Hanger said.
Wolf acknowledged raising the minimum would increase the cost of driving, but he pointed out that for someone injured in a crash with an under-insured driver, “It also makes life fairer.”
All the candidates claimed they would be the strongest nominee to take on Corbett in his bid for a second term.
“There’s no confusing me for Tom Corbett,” said McGinty, the only female participant.
“ I haven’t just talked about running statewide. I’ve done it, and I won,” said McCord, who was re-elected as treasurer in 2012.
“I’m the only one in this race that’s actually a mayor, the only one that’s running a government,” Pawlowski said.
Earlier, two longshot candidates, Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz and Mechanicsburg Pentecostal minister Max Myers, complained that they were unfairly left off the invitation list by the trial lawyers’ group that sponsored it, the Pennsylvania Association for Justice.
Event organizer Dan Fee said Litz and Myers weren’t invited because they haven’t been included in most public polls on the eight-way race and because no one in the lawyers’ group expressed interest in hearing from them. He said such judgment calls aren’t uncommon, often for practical reasons because too many candidates can make a forum unwieldy to manage.
An eighth candidate, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, initially accepted an invitation to take part in the forum but later bowed out, citing a scheduling conflict.
Litz and Myers have been excluded from some other forums, including one sponsored this month by the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
PSEA spokesman David Broderic said the association drew the line on invitations where most other organizations did and invited “candidates that are generally believed to be viable.”
Technically, none of the people raising money and campaigning for the past year is officially a candidate. They can begin the process of gathering at least 2,000 voters’ signatures on Feb. 18 and must turn in enough signatures by March 11 to qualify for the May 20 primary.