It's only May, and the Pennsylvania State Education Association is already in the weeds for this year's gubernatorial election.
Democrats in Pennsylvania have been pretty excited about the chance to run a candidate against Tom "Most Beatable Republican in the Country" Corbett. Several started throwing hats at the ring a while ago, and for reasons that are not entirely clear out here in the cheap seats, PSEA made their choice early on, offering a "recommendation," which is three scoshes short of an endorsement, but two smidgens greater than a "looks favorably upon."
That happened back in February, and the flop sweat started showing almost immediately. The leading Democrat has been Tom Wolf, a businessman from York, PA who has a pleasant smile and the ugliest website since myspace threw up all over a 90s boy band. However, when you google any candidate for governor, Wolf is the sponsored result at the top. This highlights one of Wolf's greatest qualifications for public office-- he is rich.
McCord has been state treasurer for some ungodly number of years. The other two candidates include Congresswoman Allyson Schwatrz, who reportedly tanked the PSEA interview and generally projects all the likeability of a cranky librarian, and Some Other Person who has failed to register on the radar.
Wolf's wealth has been a big help, allowing him to subject Pennsylvanians to a prodigious media blitz. McCord decided to counter that with a big dose of negative dumb. In the late stages of the campaign, McCord has tried to smear Wolf with his connection to a former York mayor who may at best have been rather a racist and at worst may have murdered a lady. This has been a spectacular display of tone deaf politics, as the charge has come out basically as, "He stuck by a friend when he should have had the political sense to drop the friendship like a hot rock."
But PA politics is often about rural vs city (and by city, we mean Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and the Kingdom of Philadelphia which some Pennsylvanians would like to cut loose and give to New Jersey). Wolf is a small town boy made good (or at least rich), and in rural areas, "He stuck by his friend and failed to act like a professional politician" is not exactly a searing indictment.
Why did PSEA throw lukewarm support behind a guy who was, at best, a long shot? Well, McCord has good answers when it comes to charters and some reformy stuff, so his nomination is at least a sign that PSEA might not be as lost in the weeds as NEA. Wolf's only government experience was with Smilin' Ed Rendell, a guy who had no more use for teachers than he had for smallpox. Part of Wolf's copy on education says
we must provide every child with a world-class education that equips
them with the skills to succeed in the 21st century. To do this, the
commonwealth needs a leader who will ensure that every school is held to
the same high standards, is funded appropriately, and graduates
students with the skills needed to go on to college or enter the
So, more reformy goodness there. Grrreat.
So in the fall we'll face a choice between a candidate the union previously spurned whose not very friendly to public education, and a candidate who has proven to be actively hostile to public ed. I am not excited.
PSEA has always shared the national union's unfortunate tendency to give up important positions for "a place at the table" and justify our support of anti-teacher politicians with that old standard "it would have been worse with the other guy." I suppose we'll go make nice with Wolf once he handsd McCord his head, and all the Dems have promised that once the primary is over, they will make nice and try not to discuss all the work they've now done for the GOP. If I had my way (which I won't, but a boy can dream), PSEA would just sit this one out, arms folded, off in the corner declaring "We won't help any of you jerks until you actually support public education and teachers who provide it."