Early Returns took a road trip to Philadelphia Monday night to check out the last joint forum among the four Democrats running for the chance to challenge Gov. Tom Corbett. From the main site, here's the report:
PHILADELPHIA -- Trampling rough but familiar terrain, Tom Wolf fended off attacks Monday night from state Treasurer Rob McCord and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz on his business background and his ties to a former York mayor who stepped down as a candidate for re-election in 2001 after being indicted for his role in a 1969 race riot in which a black woman was killed.
With a week to go before the Democratic gubernatorial primary next Tuesday, Mr. McCord forcefully renewed his critique of Mr. Wolf's judgment at the campaign's final debate at Drexel University. He pointed to the York businessman's role as chairman of former York Mayor Charlie Robertson's re-election campaign while contending that Mr. Wolf, the front-runner, had "failed the leadership test," in not speaking out against Mr. Robertson at the time that he was indicted -- though later acquitted -- of charges of having been an accessory to the women's death. Mr. Wolf protested that he had been in the Peace Corps in India at the time of the York riots, and that decades later he had been a behind-the-scenes voice in persuading Mr. Robertson to abandon his candidacy when the charges emerged shortly after he won the primary for renomination.
Ms. Schwartz of Montgomery County contended that Mr. Wolf's business background was not an adequate preparation to run the state, and insisted that he had to be willing to answer tough questions on camera if he hoped to be a credible challenger to Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
"We cannot take a risk on someone who is untested, unproven," she said, defending the harsh focus on Mr. Wolf.
Mr. Wolf insisted that his varied business, academic and government background equipped him to lead the state and said that, if it didn't, and only more conventional political paths should be considered as qualifications for high office, then that would be an indictment of the entire political system.
Following another pattern from past encounters, Katie McGinty, who is also seeking the nomination, kept her focus on the incumbent they all hope to unseat.
Decrying cuts in education funding, she said, "[W]hat I hear the voters talking about their son or daughter no longer has tutoring after school, that they now have to pay 150 bucks if they want their son or daughter to be able to participate in sports, the fact that we're now dead last in the region -- zero, last -- in private sector job creation; the fact that 97,000 Pennsylvanians have lost Medical Assistance all because of roadblocks Tom Corbett has put up."
When the question of government ethics arose, she again faulted Mr. Corbett, the Republican incumbent, for having accepted gifts and a trip to Rhode Island.
The exchanges came after a campaign in which Mr. Wolf has vaulted to the lead in public polling on the strength of an early and abundant advertising campaign. Despite their caustic assessments of the apparent front-runner, however, both Mr. McCord and Ms. Schwartz said that they would be willing to support him over the incumbent in November.