Hoeffel on the air

…And it’s a negative ad. (Though a negative ad with surprisingly upbeat and happy music.) He takes on Dan Onorato and Tony Williams in the spot. During an interview this morning, Hoeffel said the ad would run state-wide.  If that’s true, the campaign must have come up with more money since the last reporting period, when they only had a bit more than $100,000 on hand.

This is the second negative ad of the gubernatorial primary, coming a day after the Williams campaign began airing their anti-Onorato spot.

Here’s the commercial:

Gov candidates make their case at PSATS forum

Four of the six candidates for governor say they’d rule out charging municipalities for state police protection.

Speaking at a forum before the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, Democrats Dan Onorato, Jack Wagner and Joe Hoeffel, as well as Republican Sam Rohrer, said they don’t support bills that would assess fees to local governments who don’t have their own law enforcement operations.

Attorney General Tom Corbett drew murmurs from the crowd when he didn’t take a direct stance on the issue. Corbett says he wants to balance out the state police’s system of providing local coverage.

After the forum, the Republican frontrunner said it’s a complex issue.

Democrat Anthony Williams was the only candidate to say municipalities who rely on state police protection should pay a fee. A measure before the House would charge a hundred dollar-a resident fee to communities of more than 10-thousand people who don’t have their own police force.

The candidates all vowed to veto any bill imposing unfunded mandates on Pennsylvania’s municipalities. Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel’s answer summarized everyone’s stance.

All six also promised not to sign measures forcing local governments to consolidate services, though the candidates said they’d do everything possible to prod townships and boroughs to combine police forces and other services with their neighboring communities, in order to save money and resources.

Dems bring the energy at WITF debate

For the first time in the gubernatorial campaign, the Democratic candidates showed some energy during a debate, directly challenging each other on the issues during a forum aired this evening on WITF-TV.

Senator Anthony Williams and Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel had several lively exchanges, including a back-and-forth on whether Hoeffel would pledge to bar campaign contributors from winning state contracts or serving in his administration.

Hoeffel said he wouldn’t take Williams’ pledge.

The two also tangled on school vouchers. Williams is a strong supporter of subsidizing poorer and middle class children’s private educations with state money, but Hoeffel says that would undermine public schools. “What’s going to be left? What public school’s going to survive if the kids leave?” asked Hoeffel. “I’m going to worry about the child, and not the district,” responded Williams. “That’s the difference. For you, I think you believe in systems that are job employment places. But you don’t worry about — suppose somebody’s not doing their job?”

“You’ve got to have a public school that’s good covering every neighborhood in Pennsylvania,” said Hoeffel. “Survival of the fittest in public education would be a disaster.”

The forum featured several unscripted moments, as well. At one point host Nell McCormack Abom asked the candidates to name a mistake they had learned from. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato couldn’t think of one.

Onorato had another rocky moment early in the forum, when Abom asked the candidates to pose questions directly to each other. The request seemed to take Onorato by surprise, and it took him an uncomfortable 16 seconds before he came up with a question.

The debate was held hours after the latest Quinnipiac University poll found most Democratic voters still have no idea who’s running. Onorato leads the latest survey with 20 percent, but nearly half of likely voters are still undecided, and seven in ten say they’re open to changing their minds between now and election day.

Hoeffel on the attack

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel got a bit chippy during a mid-morning Capitol press conference. His first target: Attorney General Tom Corbett, who Hoeffel says is only joining the anti-health care reform lawsuit to score political points with conservative Republican voters — or as Hoeffel puts it, “teabagging tea partiers.”

Corbett’s campaign recently sent out a fund-raising mailer touting the lawsuit as proof the A-G “is working to stop the federal government from threatening individual liberties by imposing this mandate.” Hoeffel says that’s evidence of the Republican front-runner’s real motivations.

Hoeffel has tried to stake himself out as the liberal candidate in the race. He supports a graduated income tax, less abortion restrictions, legalized gay marriage and a host of other traditionally liberal policies. If the strategy is going to work, Hoeffel will need strong support from the Philadelphia suburbs on May 18th. To that end, many view Senator Anthony Williams’ campaign as a real threat to Hoeffel. So I took note when the commissioner took aim at Williams’ platform during an answer about education funding.

It’s one of the first times I’ve heard a Democratic gubernatorial candidate “go negative” about one of his primary opponents. Time and time again, the four Democrats have failed to offer clear policy distinctions during their joint forums or solo press appearances. (This is a clear contrast to the Senate race, where Arlen Specter, Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey are blasting out negative emails on a near-hourly basis.)

For his part, Williams says he isn’t worried his pro-vouchers stance turn off Democratic voters. In fact, Williams says he’ll make an issue of calling out his opponents for what he considers to be inconsistent views.

All six candidates will take part in a forum Wednesday night. It will be interesting to see whether Hoeffel continues to play offense in that setting.

Hoeffel positions himself as the race’s progressive candidate

Joe Hoeffel is liberal, and he’s not afraid to let you know it.

The Montgomery County Commissioner officially kicked off his gubernatorial bid with appearances in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia today. At the state Capitol, he ran through the progressive issues he’d advance if elected: environmental protection, increased education funding, a graduated income tax, gay marriage and a pro-choice platform.

Hoeffel says Pennsylvania’s abortion laws are “burdensome,” and filled with “waiting periods and consent requirements and judicial bypasses. These are all put into the law twenty years ago in order to make it more difficult for women to exercise their reproductive rights. And it’s particularly hard on young women and poor women.”

Hoeffel is positioning himself to the left of his opponents with this stance. Auditor General Jack Wagner is pro-life, as is Dan Onorato — though the Allegheny County Executive says he wouldn’t change Pennsylvania’s abortion laws, if elected. Like Hoeffel, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty is pro-choice.

Hoeffel also said he’d fight for gay marriage if elected, though he said he didn’t know whether that could become law during his tenure as governor.

Hoeffel held his event in the Capitol’s rotunda. Tom Knox drew grief from reporters for holding a December campaign press conference in the Capitol Media Center, but a  Department of General Services spokesman says while the Media Center is for government events only, the rotunda is fair game for political events
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If I could talk to the animals

The Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls trekked out to the Farm Show this weekend. While a main theme of their Jefferson-Jackson Day luncheon speeches was whether or not to impose a natural gas severance tax, I did manage to ask some questions about the Farm Show itself.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato chose to play it safe when I asked whether he had a favorite food at the event. Not wanting to offend the milkshake, potato doughnut or barbecue pork voting blocks, he said he liked “everything.”

Congressman Joe Sestak, who’s campaigning for Senate, also spoke at the luncheon. I broke off a line of questioning about homeland security reform in order to ask about his favorite Farm Show animal.

Finally, the prize for strangest answer goes to Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, who said he was there to “commune with the animals.”

I should also note that while he wasn’t there to campaign this weekend, Republican candidate for governor Sam Rohrer was spotted at the Farm Show eating a BBQ sandwich.

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