New Castle News

February 15, 2014

John K. Manna: Governor’s stances appear to shift over time

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Where did Gov. Tom Corbett get his ideas?

I don’t know if anyone has ever asked that question, but it came to me this week after reading a column written by G. Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young. Madonna is a professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College and Young is a former professor and managing partner of Michael Young Strategic Research.

Their piece discusses whether Corbett has been evolving on issues since he first entered office. They say it’s a hard question to answer because Corbett entered “big league politics as something of a blank slate.”

In other words, voters didn’t really know what to expect from him except for what he said during his campaign.

We had a sense of what Tom Ridge was about since he had served in Congress for several terms. The same was true for Ed Rendell who had served as mayor of Philadelphia.

Madonna and Young note that Corbett had been a campaign adviser to Gov. Ridge, a moderate, who later appointed him to the vacant attorney general’s position in 1995.

However, when he ran for governor in 2010, Corbett did not mirror Ridge’s views and instead ran as a staunch conservative: Opposing tax increases and favoring privatization of the state lottery and state liquor stores.

All of those have fallen by the wayside, although Corbett would argue that the increase in the gasoline tax to pay for bridge and highway improvements is not a tax increase. That said, he has moderated on these and even some social issues as he prepares to seek re-election to a second term this year.

So back to my question at the top. More precisely, what made him run as a staunch conservative in the first place? To his credit, he adhered to that philosophy for about the first three years of his term.

With him now seemingly moving toward the center, it needs to be asked whether he truly held those conservative views in 2010. With his favorability ratings below 25 percent, a big question now is whether he can win re-election.

But a more significant question is: What can voters expect from Corbett in a second term — the Corbett who was elected in 2010 or the one in 2014?