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Dems' debate assails Gov. Corbett

| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Democratic candidates for governor on Friday were expected to rip new front-runner Tom Wolf, who opened a wide lead in three statewide polls conducted this week.

“It'll be interesting to see if the blood, politically, starts flowing tonight,” John Hanger of Hershey said before the start of a forum at the Progressive Summit in the Harrisburg Hilton.

It didn't happen — save for a few good-natured jabs at Wolf.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of Shaler remained the favorite target on issues, ranging from Medicaid and education to incomes for working families.

Wolf, a York millionaire largely financing his own campaign, garnered 36 percent of registered Democratic voters in a poll by Franklin and Marshall College after a monthlong TV advertising blitz.

Five other candidates received totals in single digits.

Former Auditor General Jack Wagner of Beechview, a late entry into the race, was not included in the poll and did not attend the forum at the Progressive's event, a confab of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Corbett is the likely nominee for the Republican Party in the May 20 primary.

Bob Guzzardi, a conservative Montgomery County lawyer, hopes to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot and challenge Corbett from the right.

Hanger and Katie McGinty, both former state environmental regulators, state Treasurer Rob McCord and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz took the hardest shots at Corbett.

“I do believe Tom Corbett is personally responsible for the gridlock in Harrisburg,” said McCord of Montgomery County. He denounced “crony capitalism” under the governor.

McCord said, “Corbett too often acts as a wholly owed subsidiary of the J.R. Ewing wing of the energy industry,” referring to the Texas oilman in the TV show “Dallas.”

Cyber charter schools “are close to a scam,” said Hanger. It's part of an effort to “privatize public education,” he said. “Shame on Corbett and shame on the Legislature for allowing this.”

The voter ID bill signed by Corbett and designed to stop voter fraud is “his fraud,” McGinty said.

Not a single case of voter fraud has been documented, she said, calling it an “absolute disgrace.”

The law is intended to “make sure fewer Democrats come out to vote,” Schwartz said. “How outrageous and un-American is that? We cannot afford four more years of Tom Corbett.”

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz said: “Gov. Corbett, I'd like to send you packing, too.”

Wolf talked about his life's experience and how he's an “unconventional” candidate. He reiterated his support for a severance tax on drilling and a need to end the “war on women.”

Corbett campaign manager Mike Barley said in a statement that the candidates did little more than “agree with the same out-of-touch policies that resulted in a $4.2 billion deficit and high unemployment.”

“While they continue to compete for the praise of liberal special-interest groups, Gov. Corbett will continue working on behalf of all Pennsylvanians to keep taxes low and put people back to work.”

Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media.

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