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Former revenue secretary Wolf 'likely' to challenge Corbett

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 9:48 p.m.
Thomas W. Wolf, a York businessman and former secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Revenue, might run for governor in 2014 as a Democrat. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review file photo

Former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf said Monday he wants to become the first candidate to break the two-term cycle that Pennsylvania governors have enjoyed since 1970 by ousting Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in 2014.

“I will likely be running to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. I really want to run,” said Wolf, 63, a York County businessman who resigned in 2008 as head of the Revenue Department under then-Gov. Ed Rendell.

Wolf told the Tribune-Review he is exploring a run by talking with grassroots activists, establishment Democrats and even Rendell, whom he said “has been very supportive.”

Wolf, who owns Wolf Industries, a wholesaler of building supplies, said he wants to run because he thinks Corbett has no understanding of how to create jobs.

“We could do so much better, and I think I bring a unique inside-outside perspective of having run a business, created jobs and also worked in government,” he said. But he won't run if “something convinces me that that is a fool's errand.”

Rendell could not be reached for comment.

Corbett, of Shaler, could not be reached. His office said he plans to visit the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Moon on Tuesday to talk about his public safety budget.

Halfway through his term, some political strategists believe Corbett could be vulnerable.

A survey this month by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found 38 percent of registered voters approve of Corbett's performance.

Corbett's poll numbers plunged in Tuesday's Quinnipiac University poll, where the survey showed that registered voters do not think that the Republican governor has earned a second term; 51 percent said he does not deserve reelection, while 31 percent said the governor deserves a second term with 18 percent undecided. Only 49 percent of the Republicans surveyed said he deserves a second term.

The survey was conducted last Tuesday through Sunday among 1,221 registered Pennsylvania voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Yet Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia-area Democratic strategist, isn't convinced that Corbett is as vulnerable as some people think.

“I think the real question is, can you beat an incumbent governor, none of whom has ever lost? That is a very hard hill to climb,” he said, citing campaign money as an obstacle. Corbett, said Ceisler, in recent weeks “is out there doing a better job of talking about what he has accomplished.”

Former state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger, a Democrat, has announced his intent to run. Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor, who lost a primary race to Corbett for attorney general in 2004, has said he might run in the Republican primary.

Jeff Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone College, said Corbett holds a major advantage because Pennsylvanians have re-elected incumbents since term limits on governor went in place.

But he noted that “Corbett has been demonized successfully by (critics) over budget priorities, cuts to education, voting rights and his support of natural gas drilling.” The most damaging attacks concerned Corbett's “duties as attorney general during the Sandusky child abuse investigation,” he said.

Harrisburg-based Republican strategist Brock McCleary said the governor faces a challenge to communicate “his record of success through the dense fog of Penn State and a sputtering national economy.”

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at szito@tribweb.com.

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