Will State Candidates Ride the Gubernatorial Coattails?

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A few close races for seats in Pennsylvania's state legislature could be affected by the outcome of the gubernatorial election.

State Democratic and Republican leaders agree: If the Democrats are able to make gains in the Republican-dominated Pennsylvania state legislature this election, it will be in large part because of the gubernatorial race.

“The potential for some coattails” exists, state Rep. Dan Frankel, the Pittsburgh lawmaker and chair of the Democratic caucus, said, referring to the potential boost Democrat Tom Wolf could give to local candidates. “Even though the national climate for Democrats is not particularly favorable, the climate here in Pennsylvania is pretty good.”

After the election, political scientists are going to look at whether there was “a tail” for either Wolf or Gov. Tom Corbett in the polls, agreed a state Republican official who asked not to be identified. “A dislike of Tom Corbett is the story of this election.”

For example, the governor’s race could play a significant role in deciding a contest in Chester and Montgomery counties between state Rep. Warren Kampf, a Republican, and his challenger, Democrat Marian Moskowitz, a local Jewish leader who has served on the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s board of trustees.

Of Kampf, the Republican official said: “He’s a great candidate, he represents his district extremely well and he’s popular. The question is, will the discord over some specific issues that really he had nothing to do with carry over?”

Voters could link state candidates like Kampf to Corbett, the official said, on issues such as education funding, “killing” former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molesting case and trying to privatize state liquor stores.

Moskowitz is using the education funding issue in her campaign against Kampf, an attorney. “We have to look at that whole situation and figure out how we get those schools the funds we need,” Moskowitz, the owner of Franklin Commons, a converted educational facility in Phoenixville, said in an interview.

For his part, Kampf is trying to distance himself from Corbett. He described himself as “an independent voice on education” and, like Corbett, claimed that state education funding levels have never been higher. He also said that one of the “biggest problems facing public education funding” is the cost of public workers’ pensions — an “unfunded liability.”

But in contrast to the governor, Kampf said he would support an extraction tax on natural gas drilling rather than the impact fee Corbett instituted. Moskowitz said she would also support the tax.

“My opponent and others on her behalf have said that I vote with Tom Corbett; the fact is so do the Democrats in the House and in the Senate,” said Kampf.

Frankel, who has been traveling around the state fundraising for the state races, said the goal for his party is to win three to five seats in the House this election and to try to regain a majority in 2016.

“I don’t think that achieving a majority in this cycle is realistic, but we feel that we’ll be in a very good position to take over the majority in 2016, which is always a better year for Democrats when we have a presidential race,” said Fran­kel, who served as chair of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition before being elected to the House in 1998.

Other state races that sources said could be close include another Chester County race between Republican Rep. Dan Truitt and Democrat Sandra Snyder and the race to fill the Bucks County seat of Rep. Paul Clymer, a strong advocate for Holocaust education who is retiring. Republican Craig Staats and Democrat Karen Chellew are vying for his seat.