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The race for governor

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG

At the outset of the governor's race, three former Cabinet members of ex-Gov. Ed Rendell's were among the eight candidates. The political law of the jungle — an intense version of survival of the fittest played out in public — began thinning out the herd, which is down to four. Of those four, two — Tom Wolf and Katie McGinty — were agency heads under Rendell.

Wolf, a York County businessman, by all accounts is the favorite to win the Democrats' primary on Tuesday. McGinty, based on a Franklin & Marshall poll last week, is headed for a dead-last finish. Why would she ride it out when Wolf, Treasurer Rob McCord and Allyson Schwartz were the players with more name recognition and more money to compete?

Keeping in mind that polls can be wrong and any of the four could win, why would McGinty refuse to quit when four other candidates — including John Hanger, the third Rendell Cabinet member — folded their tents?

She did so to fight another day, possibly for U.S. Senate in 2016. McGinty handled herself well, refusing to be drawn into Schwartz' and McCord's cross-fire on Wolf. She knew the issues and arguably had more pizzazz than any of the four. During the final debate in Philadelphia last week at Drexel, McGinty shined.

One of the questions posed by moderator John Baer was whether Wolf, as the owner of a family-owned furniture distribution company and a year as state Revenue secretary, really is qualified to be governor? McCord and Schwartz pounced on that theme. Schwartz boasts years of experience in Congress and the state Senate. McCord headed several private financial firms before twice winning statewide elected office as treasurer.

Dear Mr. McCord and Ms. Schwartz: the voters are looking for something different than the same-old.

And you have to say that Wolf, despite his political inexperience, smoked his far more experienced opponents (based on the polls we've seen).

With his own money, saved and borrowed, Wolf calculated it would take $10 million to win the primary. He started running TV ads on Jan. 30 and never stopped. They were different TV ads about a guy who graduated with a Ph.D. from MIT, returned to save the family company, drove a Jeep and turned down perks during his brief stint in state government.

After several weeks of the feel-good Wolf ads, people kept asking where are McCord and Schwartz? Why aren't they up? The theory went they were holding back till voters were paying attention closer to the primary. Usually that would be right. But Wolf's ads were so good, they cut through the typical glaze of apathy. By the time they hit the airwaves, Wolf's lead was substantial and never subsided. So is Wolf qualified to be governor? Somehow, I think, a guy with his academic credentials, who ran a multimillion-dollar company — and outfoxed his experienced opponents — will be able to hold his own in a debate with GOP Gov. Tom Corbett and, if he wins, shape state policy and deal with the Legislature.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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