SOUTH SIDE (KDKA/AP) – Former president Bill Clinton spoke at a campaign rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf today.
With the election just eight days away, Wolf is hoping Clinton’s political power will give him the edge he needs defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
This morning, about 1,200 people lined up early to gain admittance for the event at the IBEW Union Hall on the South Side.
“Pretty early, I woke up at 4 a.m.,” Kayla Johns said.
With just a week to go, one big key for Wolf is voter turnout.
“I hope [Clinton] drives the message to Democrats to get out and vote because the biggest problem we have is we don’t show up in the midterms,” Rob Recklein said.
“This election, like most, but especially this one, is contingent upon turnout. This it the kind of thing that can produce turnout and they have people working here who are racking up some more volunteers to help get turnout. So, it’s exciting, it’s important,” Former Pa. Sen. Allen Kukovich said.
Today’s rally is also a reminder to some of Wolf’s biggest labor supporters that they must vote as well.
“Education, I think Pennsylvania voters know that if we invest in our children and if we invest in our students, we grow Pennsylvania. I think that’s critically important in this election,” PSEA President Mike Crossey said.
Clinton told the audience in a union hall on Pittsburgh’s South Side that Wolf’s life experience, whether in the Peace Corps or running his family business, shows he can bring people together for the political and economic good.
“That is what he will do and it is what he has done all his life,” Clinton said.
Clinton cast the decision between Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Wolf as determining what the country will look like as it recovers from the recession. He suggested Corbett has practiced “trickle-down economics” that benefits only the top 5 percent, while he said Wolf would make deliberate investments in education and training to ensure that students graduate into a new economy where prosperity is widely shared.
“He understands the relationship of your lives to what’s going on in the country today and what’s going on in the world today,” Clinton said. “That’s worth something in a governor.”
Clinton’s visit to Pittsburgh reaches voters who tend to be more conservative than their counterparts in eastern Pennsylvania. Earlier this month, the Wolf campaign brought Michelle Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for campaign events in Philadelphia, and President Barack Obama is scheduled to campaign for Wolf in Philadelphia next Sunday.
At a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon Monday in Harrisburg, Corbett continued his campaign’s main thread of attack against Wolf – that he will need to raise taxes on the middle class to fulfill his education spending promises. Corbett compared the election of Wolf to Congress’ passage of the 2010 federal health care law, suggesting that voters don’t know what they would be getting.
With the state government likely facing another massive deficit next year, Wolf has said he wants to restructure the income tax to boost Pennsylvania’s share of public school funding, cut local school property taxes and shift more of the tax burden to higher earners. Wolf also said he wants to raise taxes on the state’s natural gas industry and close business tax loopholes to restore funding cuts for public schools under Corbett.
Corbett opposes raising taxes on the natural gas industry and is not promising more money for public schools. He is not renewing the pledge against raising taxes he made to voters in his 2010 campaign, but he says he would keep taxes as low as possible during a second term and seek reductions in public pension benefits to cut costs.
Little-known before February, Wolf is outspending Corbett, thanks partly to the $10 million he gave his campaign, and he is leading Corbett in independent polls.
Corbett has pointed to Clinton’s arrival as evidence that Wolf’s lead is narrowing and Democrats are trying to save Wolf from a free fall. Wolf’s campaign rejects that, saying polls are stable.
The outcome of the election will be historic, either way. Wolf is trying to make Corbett the first Pennsylvania governor in four decades to lose re-election, while independent pollsters say they have never seen a major candidate turn around such a big polling deficit in such a short period of time.
The election is Nov. 4, and the candidates have picked up their public schedules.
After starting the campaigns by visiting successful businesses to draw media attention, they are now touring the state and sometimes making more than one public event a day to urge on supporters.
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