BLUE BELL, Pa. (AP) – Democrat Tom Wolf and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett headed across Pennsylvania on Monday greeting supporters in their final day of campaigning before voters decide who will govern the state for the next four years.
Wolf, a first-time candidate who ran his family business for nearly three decades, is trying to make Corbett the first governor in modern Pennsylvania political history to lose a re-election campaign. Corbett, a conservative former state and federal prosecutor, is seeking four more years as governor after being plagued with low approval ratings throughout his first term.
In particular, Corbett has struggled to defend budget-balancing cuts in aid to public schools in 2011 at the same time he cut business taxes and opposed calls for higher taxes on the thriving natural gas industry. Democrats’ dislike of Corbett has largely driven Wolf’s campaign, although the governor also had to cope with GOP apathy in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans.
With Wolf still ahead in independent polls, the Corbett campaign has pointed to a narrowing gap as evidence of momentum. In recent weeks, Corbett’s campaign has accused Wolf of planning a massive middle-class tax increase to fulfill his spending promises and being a political clone of President Barack Obama. Wolf, in turn, has accused Corbett of delivering devastating funding cuts to public schools and mismanaging the state’s economic and fiscal affairs.
In Lancaster’s Penn Square on Monday, supporters greeted Wolf and chanted, “Goodbye Corbett, farewell Corbett, the Wolf is at your door.” They finished with a howl as a Corbett campaign truck passed by, bearing the message, “the Wolf and Obama Higher Taxes Tour.”
A few miles north at the Lancaster Airport, Corbett flew in to greet supporters and deliver a speech. One person there, however, was not a supporter: “Lebanon” Levi Stoltzfus, star of the “Amish Mafia” TV show on the Discovery Channel, had come to ask Corbett why he signed a statement in August criticizing the show as “bigoted” and calling for it to be shut down. Security officers discouraged Stoltzfus from approaching Corbett.
Corbett flew to events in every corner of Pennsylvania on Monday, and both candidates were ending the day with rallies in Pittsburgh.
Overall campaign spending has broken the $70 million mark and smashed Pennsylvania’s previous campaign spending record. Despite that, pollsters expect fewer than 50 percent of registered voters will cast ballots.
Many eyes will be on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s liberal bastion and home to more than 1 million of the state’s 8.3 million voters.
Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Bob Brady said Monday he hopes to get a 350,000- to 400,000-vote victory for Wolf in the city to more than offset any edge Corbett will get from more conservative voters in the rest of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia’s four suburban counties – Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery – with 1.6 million voters also will be a key bellwether.
In several interviews Monday in Lancaster, registered voters demonstrated both apathy and dislike toward Corbett.
Kathy Ingram, a Democrat, said she does not like “what’s his name” before she remembered Corbett’s name. Beverly Pfeiffer, a Republican, said she is pretty sure she will vote for Corbett but more out of fear that Wolf will raise taxes than an attraction to Corbett.
Meanwhile, both campaigns desperately sought to gain an advantage in the final hours before the polls open.
The Republican Party has sent fliers to households warning that Wolf has a radical agenda to take away guns, which is not true. Meanwhile, a Wolf campaign radio ad in Philadelphia falsely warned that Corbett favors forcing women seeking an abortion to undergo an internal ultrasound.
Voters also will decide Tuesday who should occupy Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next two years. All but two incumbents are seeking re-election and no one expects the Republicans’ 13-seat majority to change much, if at all, thanks largely to a GOP-crafted redistricting plan that took effect in 2012.
The two open seats, both in southeastern Pennsylvania and both contested, are being vacated by six-term Republican Jim Gerlach in the 6th District and five-term Democrat Allyson Schwartz in the 13th District. Three-term Republican Mike Fitzgerald faces a challenge from political newcomer Kevin Strouse, a Democrat, in the 8th District in suburban Philadelphia.
In the state Legislature, all 203 House seats and half of the 50 Senate seats are up for grabs. Republicans are expecting to pad their majorities in both chambers.
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