With the primary election three weeks away, the Franklin & Marshall College community filled Ann & Richard Barshinger Center for Musical Arts Thursday, May 1, for a lively, informative discussion among the Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
The forum, organized by F&M's Center for Politics and Public Affairs, featured U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County, state Treasurer Robert McCord of Montgomery County, York County businessman and former state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, and former state Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty of Chester County, all vying for their party's nomination in the of the May 20 primary.
The winner will face incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in the fall, when the center plans to conduct a general election forum between the Democratic nominee and Corbett.
After a message of welcome from F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield and an introduction by WGAL's Kim Lemon, the 90-minute forum began with G. Terry Madonna, director of the center and the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, serving as moderator.
Journalists from WGAL News Channel 8, PennLive.com/The Patriot-News, and Lancaster Newspapers/LancasterOnline asked the candidates questions on a range of topics, from budgets and the environment, to tax reform and education.
"I absolutely loved it," said Tal Arnold, a first-year student who is considering creative writing or government as a major. "What I liked about it is the candidates did a really good job of answering the questions. They were really prepared."
The forum was broadcast live on Pennsylvania Cable Network and WGAL-TV's ThisTV. It also was livestreamed at wgal.com, LancasterOnline and PennLive. WGAL plans to re-broadcast the forum at noon Sunday, May 4, and LancasterOnline and PennLive will continue to make their livestreamed video available for replay.
"We had an engaging discussion tonight that was informative and lively," Madonna said following the debate.
The most recent Franklin & Marshall College Poll, released April 3, showed 33 percent of registered Democrats polled support Wolf for governor, followed by 7 percent for Schwartz, 6 percent for McCord, and 1 percent for McGinty. The poll, considered one of the most reliable in the nation and frequently cited in the regional and national media, was conducted a month after Wolf launched a comprehensive television and radio advertising campaign, with no opposing advertisements.
The F&M poll has been reporting on Corbett's approval among Pennsylvania voters in both parties for the past year, and the results have been widely publicized. According to a Jan. 30 F&M poll, 23 percent of voters believe the Republican governor is doing an "excellent" or "good" job, while a majority, 62 percent, believe the state is "off on the wrong track."
Typically, after an F&M poll is released, its nine media partners -- the Philadelphia Daily News, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Reading Eagle, WGAL, WTAETV in Pittsburgh, WPVITV6/ABC in Philadelphia, Times-Shamrock Newspapers, PennLive.com/Patriot-News, and Lancaster Newspapers/LancasterOnline -- publish stories analyzing the results. Dozens of other major media outlets have cited the poll results in their reporting of major issues in Pennsylvania and beyond. Madonna also is quoted frequently in regional, national and international media, providing commentary and analysis about how Pennsylvania politics influence the national state of affairs.
While Pennsylvania Democrats this year have organized a series of debates, the Republicans have not, Madonna said. Corbett, who has his party's backing, is considered virtually unopposed for his party's nomination. Only one other candidate -- Bob Guzzardi, an attorney from the Philadelphia suburbs -- opposed him, but he was thrown off the ballot by the state Supreme Court the day of the forum.
F&M has a strong tradition of participation in the election process -- from the College's popular government major, to the poll, to distinguished alumni playing prominent roles in politics. The College, for example, hosted two non-candidate forums on presidential politics in 2012 featuring F&M alumni who have played leading roles in the Republican and Democratic parties. And in the fall 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama spoke at a campaign rally next to the F&M campus in Buchanan Park, while John McCain and his running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, rallied supporters at F&M's Alumni Sports & Fitness Center.