Week in Review: Wolf surges through PA primary election


By PA Independent Staff

It was a big week in Pennsylvania, with voters heading to the polls to nominate candidates in Tuesday’s party primary election.

Outside of the election derby, the School District of Philadelphia’s relationship with public charters has become strained amid financial challenges.

Here’s a look back the week’s coverage:

Wolf wins running way

York County businessman Tom Wolf led the major polls heading into Tuesday’s primary election, but perhaps many people still didn’t predict just how overwhelmingly he would win the Democratic nomination for governor.

LOOKING BACK: Democratic businessman Tom Wolf had a great day Tuesday, winning the Democratic nomination for governor running away. Anti-establishment conservatives, though, didn’t fare so well across the state.

Wolf obliterated his three other opponents, winning nearly 58 percent of the vote and all 67 counties in the state. With plenty of his own money to spend and a television strategy that worked wonders, Wolf rode his nice-guy appeal all the way to a fall matchup with Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

Wolf greeted his supporters at Santander Stadium in York, driving through the ballpark in his trademark Jeep that became a staple of the campaign trail.

“I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” Wolf said, referring to the famous speech that baseball Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig delivered in 1939 after he was diagnosed with ALS. “I have always wanted to say that on a baseball field.”

While Wolf celebrated, former frontrunner and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz lamented that sexism might have played a role in her defeat. She finished second, 40 points behind Wolf.

Eric Boehm has more analysis on Schwartz’s fall from the top here.

Anti-establishment conservatives have disappointing day

Not everybody had as good of a day at the polls as Wolf.

Anti-establishment conservatives hungry for more political wins after Scott Wagner’s special election win in March probably were disappointed with Tuesday’s results.

The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, which favors limited government and has supported upstart conservatives candidates, endorsed Republicans in eight contested primaries. Just two won – Wagner and Cris Dush, who is vying for the seat that House Speaker Sam Smith will vacate.

Those results fell in line with the election-day opinion of James Broussard, an expert on Republican politics and a professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College. He said he didn’t believe that momentum from Wagner’s earlier win would carry into the primary.

“I don’t see a wave out there that would benefit insurgents because I don’t see an across-the-statewide issue that would anger people,” Broussard said.

PA Supreme Court pushes forward charter school’s lawsuit against Philly

The relationship between the School District of Philadelphia and the 86 public charter schools in the city has grown strained as financial struggles have intensified.

Now, like a parent breaking up a fight between two children, the state Supreme Court has stepped in.

In March, a charter school filed a lawsuit against the district and the School Reform Commission over the legality of the SRC’s suspensions of the school code to enforce enrollment caps and withhold per-pupil payments.

West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School requested a preliminary injunction to prevent the school district from taking action against the school. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted that last week, moving the case forward.

The outcome could be relevant to the entire charter sector in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia City Council gambles to fund schools

For a city that’s legally required to “maintain effort” to support its financially distressed school district, Philadelphia is taking a bold risk in the final weeks of legislative sessions.

The Philadelphia City Council last week announced the introduction of a bill to amend the authorization of a 1 percent sales, use and hotel occupancy tax to bolster the finances of the School District of Philadelphia.

According to the bill, which 15 of the 17 council members co-sponsored, a portion of the tax revenue will go to the school district and a portion to the municipal pension fund. It would be phased in gradually. By 2018, the split would be straight down the middle.

A cigarette tax would compensate for the money redirected away from the school district.

“These measures simply require that the state allow Philadelphia to raise local revenues for our schools. I thank our state delegation leaders in Harrisburg for their balanced, bipartisan approach toward resolving the Philadelphia School District’s funding emergency,” said City Council President Darrell L. Clarke.

AAA has suggestions about radar use

State lawmakers continued talks about allowing local police to use radar to nab speeders, and AAA has other ideas.

AAA recommended the legislation should allow only half of the proceeds from fines to hit local government coffers, with the rest going into the state’s Motor License Fund.

Motorists also should have to exceed the speed limit by 10 miles and hour or more to be convicted, while signs notifying drivers of the use of radar should be posted within 500 feet of the municipal borders, AAA suggested. Local governments should also have to adopt an ordinance authorizing the use of radar, the association said.

And finally, legislation should require that local officers complete Pennsylvania State Police-approved training to operate radar, AAA said.