Week in review: PA Gov. Corbett gets boost in poll, but troubles remain

By PA Independent Staff

Gov. Tom Corbett hasn’t had a great August, with Democratic nominee Tom Wolf’s campaign pounding him with criticisms about a high-paid adviser who has come under scrutiny and a report that the governor met with campaign aides in his public office.

It’s been the type of rocky month that even a poll showing Corbett trailing Wolf by 12 points amounts to good news for the incumbent.

It sounds strange, but we’ll explain as we take a look back at this week.

New poll shows Corbett gaining ground

Corbett’s re-election hopes looked incredibly slim at the beginning of July, when the Franklin & Marshall College Poll found Wolf with a 22-point lead.

And that’s how a new poll that found Corbett trailing by 12 points at the end of July qualifies as a boost for the embattled governor. The survey, conducted by Magellan Strategies BR for The Keystone Report, found Wolf holding a 50-38 advantage but noted that his favorable-unfavorable rating was evening out.

LOOKING BACK: Gov. Tom Corbett got a boost in a recent poll, but even that wasn’t great news for the embattled politician.

John Diez, principal of Magellan Strategies BR, said he found it hard to believe that, in a competitive race, Wolf had a 20-point lead so early. Perhaps voters, without knowing much about Wolf, a former state revenue secretary, looked at him as “the lesser of two evils,” Diez said.

“I think his lead was over-inflated,” Diez said, also pointing to the large number of undecided voters in past polls. “I think a lot of the polling that showed him up 20 points was as a time when he was having a honeymoon. He wasn’t been attacked. Nobody knew much about him.”

Make no mistake, Corbett still faces an uphill fight. It just looks like the mountain is a little less steep these days.

Concern grows over possible gas drilling in state forest

The Keystone Report poll also found that the natural gas boom hasn’t been a “winning issue” for Corbett. This week, at least, it was also the subject of criticism lobbed at the governor.

Environmentalists and lawmakers gathered on Monday to voice concern about the possibility of natural gas drilling occurring in 25,000-acre tract of Loyalsock State Forest, saying pipelines, roads and well pads could threaten the wild character of the land.

The forest features panoramic views and the Old Logger’s Path, a 27-mile-long trail. Rock Run, considered among the most beautiful streams in the state, also meanders through Loyalsock. Curt Ashenfelter, executive director of the Keystone Trails Association, called the area a “recreational mecca.”

“Like the canary in the coal mine, if Anadarko destroys the wild character of the Loyalsock State Forest, no sacred ground is safe in Pennsylvania,” Ashenfelter said.

The environmentalists and Corbett’s administration disagree on whether past court rulings give the state the power to control exactly what happens on the surface of the land, even if natural gas companies own the mineral rights underneath.

Patrick Henderson, Corbett’s top energy adviser, said it’s a “myth” that the drilling companies can’t access the land.

“That’s not accurate. It’s not sensible. It would expose the citizens in Pennsylvania,” Henderson said. “Imagine the fallout if you simply deny somebody the right to access that which they own.”

Funding Philadelphia schools, one vice at a time

The state House scuttled session days scheduled for this week, pushing back the possibility that lawmakers will allow a higher cigarette tax in Philadelphia to fund the cash-strapped city schools.

Corbett gave the district a temporary financial boost, though, when he approved an advance of $265 million. But it’s not new money, meaning the district still has a budget deficit of more than $80 million to fill.

That’s where the cigarette tax hike comes into play. But the Legislature isn’t scheduled to return until mid-September, and the delay only further reduces the amount of funding the tax could bring into the school district this year.

“If you take that into consideration, then the tax really is not even closing the $81 million gap,” district spokesman Fernando Gallard said.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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