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Dia de la Eleccion 20 de Mayo

Final Debate Tests Tom Wolf

J.Smith/

Philadelphia – Just a week ahead of the May 20th primary elections, Monday’s final Democratic Gubernatorial debate at Drexel University was early on something of a tag team of State Treasurer Rob McCord and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz taking jabs at the leadership and ethics of front-runner Tom Wolf.

   Moderated by broadcaster Larry Kane and carried by 23 television stations and nine radio stations across the state, McCord, Schwartz and McGinty went into the debate knowing they had to topple businessman Tom Wolf off his lofty perch in polls that have him ahead by up to twenty percent.

   McCord opened the debate by reiterating his support for a ten percent extraction tax on natural gas drilling.

  Double the rate of the other three candidates, McCord indicated it would, in large part, be used to fill a $4 billion funding gap in public education.

 Mr. McCord then offered forewarning, presumably aimed at Mr. Wolf: “I love to laugh, I love to argue, but I also am tough enough to fight when it’s time.”

  Former PA Environmental Secretary Katie McGinty characterized the education funding cuts as  “so severe” that the state’s bond rating was at “risk.”   

  Allyson Schwartz referred to her work as Chair of education committees and pledged to make education a “top priority.”

   Tom Wolf said he would fill depleted education coffers by shifting “priorities in the general fund.” In addition, he recommended  reducing reliance on “property taxes.”

  Questioned by John Baer of Daily News regarding the similarity of “solutions,” and the likelihood they will face a Republican Legislature, Katie McGinty referred to the  “historic legislation” passed during her Clinton years.  

  After stressing the need to elect the “right nominee,” McCord again referred to his extraction tax. It  “will happen,” he said, but it’s important to nominate “somebody who will drive the best bargain for the people of Pennsylvania.”

 Citing his experience in the Peace Corps and business, Tom Wolf recalled working with people by laying “out a compelling vision, (and) bringing people together.”

“It’s getting people to do things they might not otherwise have done.”’

Finding “common ground” and being “willing to push” when necessary, was how Schwartz described “leadership.”

   “A family owned firm” is “the worst training for building consensus,” asserted Rob McCord, questioning Wolf’s background. McCord proceeded to deride the “message” of the Wolf campaign that we’re “being sold in fuzzy ads.”

   The issue of poverty was raised, citing high percentages in cities like Philadelphia and Reading.  On this topic Ms. Schwartz, endorsed raising the minimum wage and providing  “access to opportunity.”

  The nation’s proclivity for “blaming the victim,” was seen as an obstacle to fighting poverty by Mr. McCord.

 “If we use politics right, it’s about transforming lives,” said Mr. Wolf, sounding an idealist theme reflective of his work in the Peace Corps.

 “It’s about pulling and lifting people out of poverty” he added. “It’s about transformation, it’s about change.”

 Mr. Wolf urged policy “strategies”  that establish a “level playing field, so everybody has an opportunity.”

 Questioned as to the comparison of running  a business and a government drew the sharpest exchanges of the Drexel forum.

 While acknowledging “government should not be run as a business,”  Mr. Wolf argued that businessmen do things that require them to “exercise leadership skills, and you have to get people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.”

  McCord drew a distinction between business and a “family owned business.”

   He then stated that Tom Wolf’s company,  instead of creating jobs in Pennsylvania, had actually outsourced work to an Indiana firm that he says, was “anti-labor.”

“The story that’s been told is a pretty story,” added McCord, “but it’s not the full story.”

   Discussing the skills gap in Pennsylvania’s workforce, Mr. McCord again alluded to Wolf, saying, “Not every citizen who is a nice person and a smart person is qualified to be Governor.”

   Questioned as to whether they could support the nominee of the party if it happens to be Tom Wolf, Mr. Wolf drew the only laughter of the event by saying he would support himself.

   U.S. Rep Schwartz said the state needed a governor “who is willing to say that they will not tolerate corruption,” and sets the “highest ethical standards.”

   While Revenue Secretary, Mr. Wolf noted, “ I did not take any of the perks, I did not take any of benefits,” and that he contributed his salary to charity. Wolf then pledged to sign an executive order banning gifts.”  

   McCord conceded that he would support any Democratic party nominee: “Anyone would be vastly, vastly better than Tom Corbett.”

    “But why not (nominate) the best” candidate?” asked McCord.

  “I know Tom to be a smart and good man,” continued McCord. “I just worry the doesn’t have quite the level of skills that we could get.”

   Regarding Wolf’s support of a candidate accused of racism during 1969 demonstrations in York, Pa.,  Tom Wolf explained that he was in the Peace Corps in 1969.

   “The real issue now is in not standing up and not speaking up,” argued McCord.  “The real issue is not in 1969, but in 1993.”

  Allyson Schwartz agreed, “You were faced with the chance to speak up publicly, and you chose not to.”

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