Corbett says he's confident

Published by Karen Langley on .

Ten days from Election Day, Gov. Tom Corbett says he's feeling good. He doesn't believe the public polls.

"It's moving," he said this morning at an event downtown. "If it was 10, 15 points, would they be bringing Bill Clinton into Pittsburgh and Barack Obama into Philadelphia?"

Corbett said he's sure those men are busy, and that their appearances show Democrats want to motivate more voters to get out to the polls.

"We're very comfortable with where we are right now," he said today. "You remember, I haven't ever been predicted to win my race. I'm in my -- two, three, four -- fifth race, if I count my township commissioner. Every time: He can't win. I'm standing here in front of you as governor." 


Corbett: Vin Diesel likes Pgh

Published by Karen Langley on .

Vin Diesel

Gov. Tom Corbett reports that Vin Diesel is a big Pittsburgh fan.

"When I was on the movie set last week, Vin Diesel is the lead, and he was talking to me about how much he likes Pittsburgh," Corbett said today during a press conference downtown. "He had never been here before, and he was struck, just as every visitor is struck, when they fly into Pittsburgh and come out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel and hit the bridge."

The actor is in town to film "The Last Witch Hunter," in which he stars as an immortal hunter of witches.

"He was just shocked at how pretty Pittsburgh was, the diversity of Pittsburgh," Corbett added. "He just loves Pittsburgh."



Chainsaws, Shining twins and income taxes

Published by Mike Pound on .

Andrew McGill Scarehouse bunny

What's scarier: Andrew McGill and the Scarehouse Bunny or a Tom Corbett ad about his opponent's plans to raise taxes?

While we'd urge you to take a look at Andrew's video series on some of the region's best haunted attractions, we'd also suggest that you track down the latest ad from the campaign of Mr. Corbett – after all, it won't be around after Halloween.

Tom Corbett: Scary Movie

What's new: A political ad with a smart, timely approach? That's definitely something new.

What's not: Outside of the horror film references, this is still a knock on what the Commonwealth Foundation thinks it knows about Mr. Wolf's income tax plan, specifically, as the ad says, that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate would have to more than double the income tax rate to pay for his proposals. At least we're no longer calling it a secret plan.

Bottom line: "Tom Wolf: His higher taxes are so frightening, it even scares people who scare people for a living."

Random things we noticed: The substance of "Scary Movie" isn't especially exciting, but it's at least been couched in an interesting way. And if you're not sold on the ad's contention, you can at least count the nods to horror films written into the spot; the obvious ones, even for non-horror fans, are "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Shining" and "Halloween." Also, with this ad we've finally found an appropriate use for all of the ominous music that usually shows up in these.


Wolf winning the Facebook engagement battle

Published by Mike Pound on .


Can Facebook be an accurate predictor of the behavior of voters? We'll find out soon.

Facebook has created a Midterms Elections dashboard that tracks not polling numbers but the engagement of pages – the number of likes and how many people are talking about a candidate -- run by candidates.

At the top of the dashboard's home page is a national map that tracks races for governor, U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, with each state shaded to show how it leans in terms of engagement. Click on a specific state and you'll see a similar breakdown by Congressional district.

The dashboard, which was launched today, is a measure of engagement only, and isn't intended to predict the outcome of the Nov. 4 elections, Facebook told Politico. But Tom Wolf probably hopes it does anyway; on Pennsylvania's page, the race between Mr. Wolf and Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett leads the way.

Mr. Wolf enjoys double-digit leads in most polls leading up to Election Day and his lead in Facebook engagement is about as commanding. Mr. Wolf's page has more than double the likes of Mr. Corbett's campaign page, and 14,600 people are talking about – commenting, liking, or sharing posts, but not, as we'd hoped, the number of selfies – Mr. Wolf while about 11,500 are talking about Mr. Corbett.

Two of our local Congressional districts – the 14th, held by Democrat Mike Doyle and the 18th, held by Republican Tim Murphy – don't have contested races; two others, though, will be decided on Election Day, and it's worth taking a look at what FB's engagement numbers say about those races:

Third District: U.S. Rep Mike Kelly, a Republican from Butler, shouldn't have a difficult time fending off a challenge from Democrat Dan LaVallee of Cranberry; the race is rated in Kelly's favor, and Facebook engagement tells the same story. Mr. Kelly's election page has 4,600 likes – an increase of 6.2 percent over last week – compared with Mr. LaVallee's 1,500. Facebook also says there are 1,300 talking about Mr. Kelly while just 300 are talking about Mr. LaVallee.

Twelfth District: U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, the incumbent Republican from Sewickley, also is favored to beat his Democratic challenger, Erin McClelland of Lower Burrell. But in this case, the two measures of engagement included on Facebook's Pennsylvania dashboard are split. Mr. Rothfus has a huge advantage in page likes – nearly 12,000 versus Ms. McClelland's 2,300 – but nearly 500 people are talking about Ms. McClelland's candidacy, versus the 100 talking about Mr. Rothfus.

We're going to check back with the dashboard about a week before Election Day, to see if the engagement numbers for the governor's seat and those of the two aforementioned Congressional seats have changed. And just for fun, we'll take a look again after the dust has settled to see what we can ascertain about Facebook engagement and voting.


3 things for a Tuesday

Published by Mike Pound on .

Seamus McCafferyPennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery

UPDATED at 5:10 p.m. with comment from Jason Ortitay.

While you guys were watching Da Beard execute the slowest interception return ever, things – three of them, specifically – continued to roll in Harrisburg and beyond.

McCaffery suspended from state's high court. Perhaps the only thing surprising about the suspension, with pay, of Justice Seamus McCaffery from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the language used by Chief Justice Ronald Castille is describing the reasoning – in his mind, at least – behind the suspension. Justice McCaffery had been implicated in the scandal over sexually explicit emails that were passed around the office of the state attorney general when Gov. Tom Corbett held that post; he was also accused by Justice J. Michael Eakin of attempted blackmail in connection with the scandal. Those two points – with the added bonus of alleged involvement in a ticket-fixing scandal – prompted strong statements in the opinion of Justice Castille:

It is more than a lapse in judgment – it has caused unmitigated turmoil in the justice system and has indirectly cost several state prosecutors and high ranking state officials their public careers. At least several of those individuals have had the decency to resign, whereas the instigator of the pornographic emails still draws a taxpayer's salary.

Justice McCaffery responded through his attorney that he is confident that he would be cleared of any wrongdoing, although it should be noted that he's already admitted and apologized for his involvement with the email scandal. We could get an official resolution soon – the court's order gives the state Judicial Conduct Board 30 days to decide whether misconduct charges against Justice McCaffery are appropriate -- although not even that is likely to ease the tense relationship between Justices McCaffery and Castille.

Wolf releases tax forms. Since the start of the campaign, opponents of Democratic nominee for governor Tom Wolf have called for Mr. Wolf to release his tax forms for 2013. After seeking an extension in April, the Associated Press got a look at the two-page 1040 filed last week (Mr. Corbett released his 1040 in April). The details? Mr. Wolf reported adjusted gross income of $1.3 million, a salary from the Wolf Organization of $342,000 (he stopped drawing a salary from the family biz in the spring), $180,000 in taxable interest and – drum roll, please – a tax bill of $287,000.

Marcellus Shale blog questions candidate's residency: Be sure to take a look at this investigative piece at Marcellus Monitor, which dug up documents that suggest that Jason Ortitay, the Republican candidate running against state Rep. Jesse White, D-46, may not have met district residency requirements. Mr. White and Mr. Ortitay are in the midst of one of the nastier races for the state house, complete with attack ads and accusations of lying.

Reached late Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Ortitay said he grew up and continues to live in the district. He offered to produce his signed and notarized affidavit, swearing his residency.

"Unlike my opponent who has impersonated constituents for his own vindictive purposes, I respect the law and the rules. This area is my home, where I grew up and live. There is no residency issue; I live in the district," Mr. Ortitay said.