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Corbett's press secretary to depart for PR firm

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 12:07 a.m.
Kevin Harley, Gov. Tom Corbett’s long-time press secretary, will take a job with the prominent Republican public relations firm Quantum Communications after Labor Day, Corbett’s office announced Monday, Aug. 12, 2013.

A top aide to Gov. Tom Corbett plans to step down next month, the latest departure from an administration struggling with dismal approval ratings as its re-election campaign approaches.

Kevin Harley, Corbett's longtime press secretary, will take a job with the prominent Republican public relations firm Quantum Communications after Labor Day, Corbett's office announced on Monday. The announcement was made less than a month after Leslie Gromis Baker became Corbett's third chief of staff in as many years.

“Kevin has been one of my closest and trusted advisers for many years. I value his counsel and friendship. I look forward to continuing to work with him in a new role,” Corbett said in a statement announcing Harley's resignation.

Harley said he's been talking to Quantum CEO Charlie Gerow, a close friend, for “a number of months,” and that he isn't jumping ship.

“I've been with Tom Corbett for 12 years,” Harley said.

Harley plans to serve Corbett's campaign as an outside consultant.

“I'll be able to help him,” Harley said. “That was important to me.”

Corbett's approval rating remains stuck below 40 percent, and at least one national pundit labeled him the most vulnerable incumbent governor running in 2014. A Quinnipiac University poll in June found two of the top Democratic candidates — U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Treasurer Rob McCord — leading Corbett by 10 and 8 percentage points in head-to-head matchups, respectively.

Departures from Corbett's administration include an inspector general, CEO of the Turnpike Commission and the secretaries of Environmental Protection, Health, Public Welfare and Conservation and Natural Resources.

“When you do have a fairly large exodus of senior staff and secretaries, you question if there is enough energy and excitement to keep people aboard,” said Chris Borick, director of Muhlenberg College's Institute of Public Opinion.

Corbett this year struggled through a legislative session during which GOP leaders failed to pass his priorities, including a transportation funding bill, prison reform and liquor store privatization.

“He's got to have some accomplishments to hang his hat on, and those haven't been readily available, or at least visible to the public,” Borick said.

Harley, 49, served as press secretary for Corbett's 2004 attorney general campaign, then in the Attorney General's Office before becoming press secretary for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Before that, he worked on two gubernatorial campaigns and a U.S. Senate campaign.

“We are thrilled that he's going to be joining us,” Gerow said. In addition to political clients, Quantum represents companies in the energy, technology and health care fields.

“We've been talking about being in business together for a long, long time,” Gerow said, noting Harley is godfather to his daughter. “It's great for him. It's great for us.”

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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