IUPolitique: As Dems drop out, Pa. governor’s race takes shape

With primary day now eight weeks away, the race for the Pennsylvania governor’s mansion has heated up – and the candidates for the Democratic nomination have been dropping steadily over the past few weeks.

In early February, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski dropped out of the race. He was followed by Minister Max Myers, who dropped out Feb. 24.

Myers exited the race for financial and logistical reasons, Capitolwire reported. Unlike Pawlowski, who endorsed state Treasurer Rob McCord, Myers did not initially endorse another candidate.

As March began, so did the time for candidates to begin filing (and successfully filing) petitions to be placed on the gubernatorial ballot. When Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz failed to file enough petitions to be placed on the ballot, she became the next one to drop out of the race.

“It’s been a full nine months; tens of thousands of miles; thousands of hours invested; thousands of phone calls; dozens of media interviews and candidate forums; spring flings, summer picnics, Jefferson Jackson dinners; meeting people one-on-one; registering new voters; seeing new sites; and in the end, circulating petitions,” Litz said on her Facebook page.

Litz, who was the first gubernatorial candidate to visit all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, will continue to serve as a county commissioner in Lebanon County.

“I have no regrets,” Litz said. “There is no plan B. I will continue to serve the county of Lebanon. Blessings to everyone for their encouragement and the opportunity to run for the statewide office of governor.”

A week after Litz’s withdrawal, former state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger left the race, even though he had successfully earned a spot on the ballot during petitions.

Hanger was known during the campaign as the pro-marijuana candidate, and now, after withdrawing from the race, he has joined forces with lieutenant governor candidate and state Sen. Michael Stack to back legislation in the state Senate to decriminalize possession of the drug and to create an expungement program for those arrested and convicted for marijuana-related crimes.

Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that former state Auditor General Jack Wagner had dropped out of the gubernatorial race.

Wagner had been in the running for just a few weeks – the then-candidate announced his intent to seek the Democratic nomination at the end of February, shortly before petitions needed to be circulated and filed.

Now, Wagner is the most recent candidate to withdraw, and he did so on the last day he could. As of Thursday, the candidates who filed their petitions and are still in the running will be the candidates on the ballot in May.

That leaves Rep. Allyson Schwartz, state Treasurer Rob McCord, former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty and front-runner and former revenue Secretary Tom Wolf in the running for the Democratic nomination.

On the GOP side of the aisle, incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett is currently scheduled to be challenged by Bob Guzzardi, who self-identifies as a conservative activist.

Guzzardi is from Montgomery County.

Although the activist filed enough signatures to get on the ballot, four Republican voters who were backed by the state party challenged the candidate’s filing, saying that he did not actually meet the requirements necessary to earn a place against Corbett. Now Guzzardi’s signatures will be examined, and his place on the ballot will be subject to this examination.

“This gives me credibility as a candidate,” Guzzardi said. “The Republican machine sees me as a threat. Corbett is panicking.”

Even if Guzzardi remains on the ballot, Corbett is widely expected to win the GOP primary contest.

In early March, the Pennsylvania Green party nominated Paul Glover, a social entrepreneur from Ithaca, to represent them on the ballot in November.

Unlike the Democratic and Republican candidates, Glover will not appear on a party primary ballot in May because of Pennsylvania’s closed primary system. Instead, the candidate will be required to file more than 16,500 signatures – 2 percent of the total votes received by the most popular candidate for statewide office in the previous general election.

Glover will have until early August to file his signatures.

At this point, Glover is not the only third-party candidate in the gubernatorial field. Ken Krawchuck, an entrepreneur and inventor who ran for governor in 1998 and 2002, has said that he will run as a libertarian.

Krawchuck will also have to file the same amount of signatures as Glover at a minimum to appear on the ballot in November.