Economy takes center stage in Wolf ad

Published by Mike Pound on .

With the recent spate of shaky economic news -- the state's tax anticipation loan to itself, falling debt ratings and climbing unemployment figures, for example -- it was probably just a matter of time before one or more of them appeared in a Tom Wolf ad. Which one is it? DING -- it's unemployment.

Tom Wolf: Not Even Close

What's new: The state's unemployment rate has risen over the last two months, and we see headline clippings from Philly's NBC affiliate and the P-G (which includes an odd typo if you watch the video and take a look at the text). A snippet of Gov. Tom Corbett promising to make Pennsylvania No. 1 in job growth is followed by stats that show we've fallen to 47th in the state in job creation -- a stat attributed to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics -- and the words "Not even close." Ominous piano music has been dumped in favor of something that sounds kind of like the start of Eminem's "Lose Yourself," before an abrupt transition into happy candidate music.

What's not: There should be an Instagram filter called Grainy Evil Politician, so we can all shoot our own political ads.

Bottom line: "Tom Wolf -- a proven job creator."

Random things we noticed: An ad smacking Mr. Corbett on the economy was probably inevitable, and the real-world timing -- especially the unemployment rate creeping up over the past two months -- probably made it inevitable now. Will the Wolf campaign continue the to emphasize the economy for a while? Or will we veer back to education funding for the home stretch?


Harrisburg rolls on

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gay beating arrestPhilip Williams, right, accompanied by attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. walks to a police station Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Philadelphia. Williams, Kevin Harrigan and Katherine Knott are being charged with conspiracy, aggravated and simple assault, and reckless endangerment in the Sept. 11 beating of a gay couple during a late-night encounter in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

While we were digesting the first debate between Gov. Tom Corbett and opponent Tom Wolf, business in Harrisburg continued to roll. What did we miss? Here's a look:

  • Medical marijuana about to hit a wall: The state Senate is set to vote on a bill that would allow the use of prescription medical marijuana in the state, after the bill made it through the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 21-5 vote. It's expected that the bill would pass a vote by the full Senate, but even with strict limitations on how it could be used – no smoking allowed, boys and girls – the leadership in the House appears to be much more skeptical. Still, moving the bill out of committee provided a bit of home for people like Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson; the Senate's president pro tem, told our Karen Langley he hopes medical marijuana could help his daughter, who has to cope with multiple seizures each day: "Do I know if medical marijuana will lessen the intensity of those seizures? Do I know if it will shorten the length of those seizures, or have her more relaxed? What I do know is the medications they give her now, the concoctions of very, very strong anti-seizure medicine, just puts them out, put these kids out and adults out. So it's a bit about a little bit of hope of quality of life."
  • This one you can smoke: The Philadelphia School District is about to get a financial boost, thanks to a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes about to be signed into law by Mr. Corbett. Between the cigarette tax and an extension of a local sales tax, the struggling district will now have a recurring revenue stream of about $170 million – good news for a district that almost didn't open this fall.
  • Debt downgraded again: For the fourth time in two years, a financial ratings firm has downgraded Pennsylvania's debt rating. Fitch Ratings dropped the state's grade to AA-, its fourth-highest ranking. Fitch said recurring budget deficits and growing pension costs were behind the downgrade – and that was music to the ears of Mr. Corbett, who has been pushing for pension reform all summer: the downgrade "underscores the need for pension reform," said Jay Pagni, spokesman for the governor. Naturally, the folks running the campaign of Mr. Wolf had a different view: "Plain and simple, Tom Corbett's failed policies are decimating the state's economy," spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said in a statement.
  • And this is why: State Sen. Jim Ferlo came out on Tuesday at a news conference to push for adding protections for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people to the state's hate crimes laws. Ferlo's announcement might have overshadowed the push for the legislation at that moment, but we got a reminder about why it is necessary: three people, all Bucks County residents, surrendered to Philadelphia police this morning to face charges in a Sept. 11 attack on a gay couple in Philly's Center City area. The attack, which resulted in hospital stays for both victims, cannot currently be prosecuted as a hate crime.

Ferlo: 'I'm gay. Get over it.'

Published by Mike Pound on .

State Sen. Jim FerloState Sen. Jim Ferlo

There will be a time – perhaps soon – when an announcement like the one state Sen. Jim Ferlo made in Harrisburg this morning won't be news.

Mr. Ferlo, D-Highland Park, took a moment during a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning to formally – and matter-of-factly – announce that he is gay. Mr. Ferlo said hadn't planned to an announcement, but the context – a presser to push for protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents in the state's hate-crimes laws – provided the impetus to change his mind.

"I apologize for saying this so late in life, but I am not any longer going to be in the state Senate and I know that many people do not report hate crimes because of the fear of being out," said Mr. Ferlo, who will leave the Senate at the end of November.

You can take a listen to Mr. Ferlo's remarks below, thanks to audio provided by WITF's Mary Wilson, but the most important part is right here:

"I'm gay. Get over it. I love it. It's a great life."

Excellent advice, Mr. Ferlo. Consider it done.



Five thoughts on Monday's Wolf-Corbett debate

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Corbett debates challenger Tom Wolf Monday in Hershey. (Matt Rourke / AP photo)Gov. Tom Corbett debates challenger Tom Wolf Monday in Hershey. (Matt Rourke / AP photo)

The setting – the annual dinner for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry in Hershey – probably meant that Gov. Tom Corbett was a bit more comfortable from the start of Monday night's gubernatorial debate.

And it showed.

Mr. Corbett was the winner of the first debate against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, although it was hardly a decisive victory. And at this point, it doesn't seem like a narrow win with the election still six weeks away is enough to offset the substantial lead Mr. Wolf enjoyed as both candidates walked on stage Monday.

A few thoughts:

  1. Mr. Corbett, a longtime prosecutor, seemed to treat Hershey Lodge like a courtroom; he was animated, energetic and peppered Mr. Wolf with questions about the specifics for his plans for education funding, income tax reform. In that format – where each candidate stood to respond to questions – Corbett is likely to maintain an advantage.
  2. Mr. Corbett made a good point about the lack of specifics from Mr. Wolf, something that we've harped on as well. It felt a little frustrating to hear Mr. Wolf say he didn't know how much money was needed to reach his goals for educational improvements in the state, even if that's the most honest answer Mr. Wolf could come up with. And consider this possibility: It may be that at this stage of the campaign, Mr. Wolf's lead is commanding enough that he doesn't need to dig into the details.
  3. While Mr. Corbett called out Mr. Wolf for glossing over the fine points of his plans, the governor didn't exactly offer many details of his own. At least twice, Mr. Corbett dodged questions about whether he'd renew the no-new-taxes pledge he offered during his first gubernatorial candidacy.
  4. The incumbent repeated a mea culpa about his communications skills – or the lack thereof – as a reason for his lagging campaign. It may be that honesty isn't the best policy in this case, because it puts the Corbett campaign back on its heels from the start.
  5. Or maybe there are other reasons why the campaign of Mr. Corbett is struggling. The recent numbers don't lie: new campaign funding reports show a $3 million financial advantage for Mr. Wolf, the state's unemployment rate has inched upwards over the last two months and a new poll – this one by Muhlenberg College in Allentown – shows that Mr. Wolf enjoys a lead of 21 percentage points among likely voters. Even with Monday's modest win, it will be tough for the campaign of Mr. Corbett to overcome that momentum.

Perry on Politics: Roger Goodell and lessons not learned

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goodell smallNFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. (AP photo)

By James M. Perry

That marvelous word, pusillanimous, seems to neatly describe Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, deeply involved these days in a scandal involving domestic abuse by some of the league's biggest stars.

No one would ever have called his father, Charles Goodell, pusillanimous.

Goodell, reared in Jamestown, was one of a number of thoughtful Republican members of Congress who once upon a time turned up with some regularity from western New York -- Sterling Cole from Painted Post, Jack Kemp from Buffalo, Barber Conable from Rochester, Amo Houghton from Corning. They were all smart and well-educated. Goodell played baseball and football at Williams College and received both a law degree and a master's degree in government at Yale.

Cool, laid-back, pipe-smoking Charlie Goodell served ten years as a fairly moderate and reform-minded Republican congressman. He was one of the "Young Turks" who rousted out the old guard led by Charles Halleck and brought in Jerry Ford as the new GOP leader in the House.

He was appointed to the Senate by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1968 to succeed the assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. He served in the Senate for only two years -- but what courageous, glorious years they were.

Goodell probably came to the Senate already believing the war in Vietnam was a grievous mistake. He wasn't alone in holding those beliefs but he was one of the few willing to take a public stand, infuriating President Nixon, Vice President Agnew, and almost every big-time Republican in the country. Even Governor Rockefeller seemed a little stunned by his actions. Goodell introduced legislation -- Senate bill 3000 -- that would have cut off funding for the war. A copy of the bill hangs in the office of Roger, the middle of his five sons and the beleaguered NFL commissioner.

Agnew called him a "radical liberal" and said Goodell reminded him of Christine Jorgensen, the first woman to have a sex-change operation, implying, presumably, that changing his views on a major issue was something akin to changing one's sex.

Roger has said his father knew he was risking his Senate seat by taking on the pro-war Republican establishment, but he did it anyway. It was a classic profile in courage, of the sort Jack Kennedy wrote about. "He fell on his own sword politically," one GOP leader said.

He ran for a full six-year term in 1970, challenged on the left by Congressman Dick Ottinger and on the right by James Buckley, Bill's older brother. Buckley won with 39 per cent of the vote (only to lose next time around to that man of many parts, Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Charlie Goodell came in third.

Roger must think sometimes about his father (Charlie died in 1987) and how he risked his job for something he deeply believed in.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.