Wolf, 47; Corbett, 25

Published by James O'Toole on .

His budget is stalled and so are his poll numbers.
The latest Franklin & Marshall College survey shows Gov. Tom Corbett continuing to trail far behind his Democratic challenger, York businessman Tom Wolf.

 The state's voters give the incumbent dismal job performance assessments.  His Democratic challenger led the governor by  margin of 47 percent to 25 percent among 502 registered voters surveyed between June 23 and June 29.

Just 27 percent of the voters said they thought Mr. Corbett's job performance was "good,'' or "excellent.''   That was even worse that the job performance spread for President Obama, whose positive job reviews totaled 34 percent, up slightly from his 30 percent rating in January, the lowest job approval for the president throughout the F&M surveys since he took office.

Mr. Wolf led in every region and almost every demographic category tracked by the survey.  He trailed in Allegheny County 43 percent to 31 percent.  That's a heavily Democratic county, but one Mr Corbett carried in his 2010 victory over Dan Onorato.  In normally Republican central Pennsylvania, Mr. Wolf led 46 percent to 26 percent, and in the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs, the Democrat was ahead, 39 percent to 31 percent.

The Republican led only among Republicans, 55 percent to 19 percent, and self-described conservatives, 52 percent to 14 percent.


Light and fog

Published by James O'Toole on .

Starting Tuesday, every television station in the country was required by the Federal Elections Commission to post online what is known as its political file, the list of campaign commercials and who is paying for them.

Previously, outside of the nation's largest fifty television markets, anyone who wanted to study that public information had to go physically to the stations that sold the ads.  It was the next step in a process to make this information more widely available that began two years ago with the FEC's previous disclosure order to stations in the bigger markets.  That order covered roughly 230 stations.  The expanded order that went into effect this week brings more than 2,000 stations under the disclosure mandate, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which helps track the ad spending through a variety of analytic tools available on its web site,

In a release heralding the next chapter of ad data, the foundation called it, "a rare victory for transparency in a political system increasingly innundated with dark money.''


Coghill ousts Wagner in the 19th

Published by James O'Toole on .

In a major changing of the guard in Pittsburgh's Democratic politics, longtime Chairman Pete Wagner stepped down from the helm of of the 19th Ward Monday night in the face of a challenge from his recent adversary, and onetime ally, Anthony Coghill.

Mr. Wagner, the father of Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, and brother of former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, had led the South Hills ward, one of the city's largest, for 28 years.  He held off a challenge from Mr. Coghill four years ago, but confided just before last night's meeting began in a Brookline American Legion hall, that his head count showed that he end up a few votes short.

Mr. Coghill supported Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto against the ward chair's brother, Jack, in last year's Democratic mayoral primary, one of many times they had clashed in the sometimes Byzantine world of Brookline politics.  He recruited new faces to run for committee seats in the May primary, arguing that Mr. Wagner's leadership lacked energy and effectiveness.

Mr. Wagner opened the reorganization meeting still wielding the figurative gavel he had held for nearly three decades.  He defended his record and criticized Mr. Coghill's ambitions, contending that they were rooted in a personal feud over Mr. Wagner's refusal to back his former ally, Mr. Coghill, in a city council race.  Then he surprised many in the room by announcing that he would not seek another term. "A lot of young people feel I'm a dinosaur after 28 years he said.  "I don't agree with that.''

But Mr Wagner had played one more card in his dispute with Mr. Coghill before leaving the stage.  He distributed copies of a twitter message in which the author,  identified as @pittsburghpolitical, claimed that Mr. Coghill had used a homophobic slur in referring to Mr. Wagner.  Jim Sheppard, who would unsuccessfully run against Mr. Coghill in the ward ballotting a few moments later, claimed that Mr. Coghill had used the words "sissy,'' and ''faggot'' in a conversation about Mr. Wagner.

 Mr. Coghill, heatedly denied the charge, in just one of a series of raucous exchanges that preceded the voting. After Mr. Wagner left the Brookline Boulevard hall, Mr. Coghill easily won the ward leadership with 46 votes.  Mr. Sheppard, a former employee of Luke Ravenstahl who said he now works for Ms. Wagner, received 28 votes while one of the ward's elected committee members held out and voted for Mr. Wagner.


Budget Day at the PA Capitol

Published by Karen Langley on .

Welcome to Budget Day at the PA Capitol! 

A trim $29.1 billion spending plan cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee last night, setting up expected passage through the full Senate and then the House. But Gov. Tom Corbett hasn't said if he will sign the bill.

From today's paper:

HARRISBURG -- Senate Republicans on Sunday turned from an earlier openness on using taxes to close a state budget shortfall, sending toward the floor a trimmer spending plan than Gov. Tom Corbett proposed earlier in the year.

At $29.1 billion, the state general fund would be hundreds of millions of dollars smaller than Mr. Corbett called for in February, before months of poor revenue collections left Pennsylvania facing a budget gap of well more than $1 billion.

The Senate and House are expected to take up the proposal today with hopes of delivering the general appropriations bill to Mr. Corbett by the start of the new fiscal year at midnight.

Minority Democrats derided the plan, passed on a party-line vote, as based on overly-rosy revenue projections and too many one-time fund transfers.

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Kelly, Quigley lead Pgh Dems

Published by James O'Toole on .

The officers of the city of Pittsburgh Democratic ward organization have elected Eileen Kelly as the new city chair, and Kevin Quigley as vice chair.  Barbara Ernsberger was chosen as secretary in the Sunday ballotting at the Hill House auditorium.

Ms. Kelly, of Oakland, had been the acting chair since her predecessor, state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-East Liberty, resigned the party post in 2013 to back Bill Peduto's bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor.   City Controller Michael Lamb, who eventually withdrew from the mayor's race, had been unopposed for the party endorsement.

The results suggest that depite his comfortable primary victory, Mr. Peduto has yet to translate his strength with rank-and-file voters into clout with his party's organization.  Ms. Kelly backed former Auditor General Jack Wagner in the mayoral primary. Mr. Quigley, a North Side ward leader and former city public works official, is a friend of former Mayor Luke Ravernstahl, and was fired by the Peduto administration on its first day in office.

The ballotting on the city committee leadership was open to the four ward officers of each of the city's 32 wards.