The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 12, 2014

Corbett facing GOP challenger

HARRISBURG — Bob Guzzardi is ready to do what no one has done in Pennsylvania in almost a quarter of a century – challenge an incumbent governor in the primary.

Guzzardi, an attorney and businessman from Montgomery County, filed petitions with 2,700 party members’ signatures from 10 counties on Monday, assuring his place on the May 20 Republican primary ballot against incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett. Corbett filed with 27,747 signatures from every county,” his campaign announced Tuesday night.

Guzzardi concedes he has little chance of beating the governor, who has the support of the Republican establishment. But he said Corbett’s poor polls suggest Republicans ought to be looking for an alternative.

“There’s not a single poll showing that Tom Corbett will be a Democrat,” Guzzardi said. “I have as much of a chance as Tom Corbett does.”

Guzzardi said he will not accept donations, nor does he plan to spend very much money on his campaign.

“This is not going to be a Tom Wolf-type thing,” Guzzardi said, referring to the campaign of the York County businessman who has flooded the airwaves with advertising – spending $10 million of his own money – to try to win the Democratic nomination.

Whether he wins or not, Guzzardi’s run will be an unwanted distraction for a governor who would much rather bide his time and let a crowded field of Democrats batter each other in the primary, said Leo Knepper, executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania.

Knepper said he understands how grass-roots conservatives might be disenchanted with Corbett.

“It’s not really a question of what he’s done as much as what he’s failed to do,” he said. Corbett “was willing to twist arms to get the transportation funding passed. He hasn’t show that he is willing to do that with pension reform or liquor privatization.”

Knepper’s Harrisburg nonprofit lobbies for “limited government, economic freedom and personal responsibility.” Knepper said the organization is not wading into the governor’s race but will instead focus on promoting conservative candidates running for the Legislature.

Guzzardi has chiefly focused his campaign’s talking points on Corbett’s support of the transportation-funding plan. He maintains that lifting a cap on the wholesale price of gas to pay for the plan translated into a tax increase for drivers.

While the gas tax is the most recent controversy, Guzzardi argues that Corbett’s support for gas drilling – and the impact fee on gas companies – was ill-conceived, as well.

Supporting an impact fee made no sense, Guzzardi said. It didn’t satisfy those who still want the state to pursue a severance tax on drilling. And it stands as another form of a tax increase that shouldn’t sit well with conservative voters, he said.

“It didn’t make sense economically and it didn’t sit well politically,” he said.

In gathering signatures to put his name on the ballot, Guzzardi collected the most in southeastern Pennsylvania. But he had to get support from other parts of the Commonwealth to get the required names.

Among the places he ventured for support was Union County, he said.

“The Lewisburg Farmers Market was a gold mine,” he said.

Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, said it’s unlikely that Guzzardi will win.

“But if indeed a protest candidate can get a significant share of the vote as being anyone but Tom Corbett, it has the potential for embarrassment for the governor,” Borick said. “Given all the other concerns (Corbett) has, this is not something he needs.”

Even though Guzzardi may appeal to conservatives who are upset with Corbett, Borick said few connected to the Republican Party will risk helping Guzzardi out of concern that it would alienate the governor and other party leaders.

State GOP spokeswoman Megan Sweeney said Corbett has received the unanimous endorsement of the party. “We’re looking forward to helping the governor win in the fall,” she said.

Previously the state’s attorney general, Corbett was elected governor in 2010 and will finish his first term at the end of the year.

A spokesman for the Corbett campaign pointed to the party endorsement in dismissing any perceived threat posed by Guzzardi.

“As the Republican Party of Pennsylvania’s unanimously endorsed gubernatorial candidate, we are confident Governor Corbett and Lt. Governor (Jim) Cawley will be reelected this November,” said Billy Pitman, Corbett campaign spokesman.

The last time an incumbent governor faced primary opposition was when Democratic Gov. Robert Casey Sr. ran for a second-term in 1990. Casey won the primary against another Montgomery County lawyer, Philip Berg. Casey then won the general election.

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