Monday, February 2, 2009

Pennsylvania 2010: Governor

Reviewing the 21st century so far, in terms of the fortunes of the Republican Party here in Pennsylvania, I fall back on the old saying: "If it weren't for bad luck, we'd have no luck at all." But now some good news: that formidable vote-getter in the other party, Governor Ed Rendell, is running up against a term limit.

In 1967, the state constitution was amended to allow governors to serve two four-year terms. Before that, they were prohibited from running for reelection. Since the first gubernatorial election under that amendment, in 1970, the parties have traded the governorship back and forth, at eight-year intervals. During that period, no governor has been denied reelection, but no governor has been elected to succeed a governor from the same party.

If that pattern holds, it will be the Republicans' turn in 2010.

Dozens of names have been mentioned as possible candidates.

Some of those most frequently named on the Republican side include:

  • Tom Corbett, 59, Pennsylvania's attorney general.
  • Jim Gerlach, 53, the 6th district congressman.
  • Pat Meehan, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
  • Rick Santorum, 50, former U.S. senator.
  • Mark Schweiker, 56, who served as governor for the last 15 months of the 1999-2003 term, after Tom Ridge took the Homeland Security job in Washington.

Those who might try to change history, and give the Democrats a third consecutive term, include:

  • Tom Knox, a Philadelphia businessman. He ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic mayoral primary in 2007.
  • Don Onorato, 47, Allegheny County (of which Pittsburgh is the seat) executive.
  • Mark Singel, 55, former lieutenant governor. He served as acting governor for six months in 1993, when Governor Bob Casey was recovering from a heart-liver transplant.
  • Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania's auditor general.

The race seems to be wide-open in both parties, but I'll mention one additional element of Pennsylvania gubernatorial politics that might help to narrow down the field. In addition to alternating parties, the electorate has alternated between electing governors from the eastern and western halves of Pennsylvania. If that pattern holds, the Philadelphian Rendell will be followed by a westerner. That would suggest Corbett, Santorum, Onorato or Wagner.

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