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Poll: Wolf leads Democratic primary race for governor

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Thursday, April 3, 2014, 12:06 a.m.

North Side resident and registered Democrat Tracey Barton said she's likely to vote for York County business owner Tom Wolf in the gubernatorial primary next month, citing his platform on health care.

“He's a businessman and he wants a Medicaid expansion,” Barton said.

Wolf continues to lead in the Democratic primary race for governor, according to a poll from the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. Nearly half of the 524 registered Democratic voters surveyed remain undecided in the four-way contest among Democrats hoping to unseat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

The poll found 33 percent of voters said they would vote for Wolf if the election were held that day. The primary is May 20.

The closest challenger is Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Philadelphia, with 7 percent support. Six percent of voters said they would cast a ballot for Treasurer Rob McCord and 4 percent responded in favor of former state Secretary of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty.

Wolf, a cabinet distributor, funneled $10 million of his own money into his campaign, giving him a significant financial edge and funding multiple rounds of campaign commercials across the state. Nearly three out of four registered Democrats have seen gubernatorial campaign ads this season, according to the poll. Wolf's ads, one of which focuses on his experience running his family-owned cabinet manufacturer, have reached 85 percent of them.

McCord and McGinty have made smaller ad buys, seen by 42 and 39 percent of polled voters, respectively. Schwartz's campaign has yet to go on the air.

Brian Pfendler, a North Side resident who is not registered to vote under a political party, said he's seen ads for Wolf and McGinty. If he were a registered Democrat, he'd lean toward McGinty, he said.

“It was her all-around demeanor,” he said. “She seemed people-oriented.”

Michael Bronstein, a Democratic political consultant based in Philadelphia and unaffiliated with any gubernatorial campaign, said Wolf's lead could narrow once other candidates begin to advertise as heavily.

“Right now, the Wolf campaign has been able to message in an uncompetitive messaging environment, which gave them a very strong advantage,” he said.

Commercials will increase as the primary draws near. Bronstein said most campaign money is raised and spent in the last quarter before the election.

Advertising costs vary based on the size of the market. Buys in Pittsburgh will be less than Philadelphia but more than Lancaster. According to Federal Communications Commission records, a contract for 24 spots from Feb. 4 through Feb. 10 on WPXI cost the Wolf campaign $15,925.

The nature of the ads could change as candidates seek to differentiate themselves, comparing themselves with other candidates instead of telling personal stories.

“Being first on air doesn't mean you win the race automatically,” Bronstein said. “If there is a blunder by a candidate or a comment made that's not on point, other candidates may want to seize on it.”

The poll was conducted from March 25 through March 31 and has a sample error rate of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The majority of those polled — 46 percent — remain undecided on who they will support.

Lamar Lamont, a Democrat from Pittsburgh's North Side who works the polls on Election Day, hasn't made up his mind on which candidate he'll back on the ballot. But Lamont said he wants to see someone other than Corbett in Harrisburg.

“We need more Democrats in there, big time,” he said.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or




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