PA Governor Hopefuls Focus on Philly Voters

Gubernatorial candidates Dan Onorato and Tom Corbett visited neighborhood churches, diners and taverns Sunday on the last weekend of the campaign to win over undecided voters and make certain their supporters cast ballots on Election Day.

Both candidates concentrated on Philadelphia and its suburbs, which account for one-third of the state's 8.5 million voters.

Corbett, the state attorney general and Republican nominee, visited several black churches through early afternoon. At the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, whose complex covers a city block in south Philadelphia, he urged congregants to go to the polls.

“Go vote,” he said. “Hopefully, you'll vote for me.”

Democrat Onorato began his day in his home city of Pittsburgh campaigning with Sen. Bob Casey at a diner, but within hours he was at the other end of the state being greeted by a rowdy crowd of union loyalists at a south Philadelphia tavern.

Onorato, the elected executive of Allegheny County, said he discounted speculation that turnout in heavily Democratic Philadelphia would be low on Election Day.

“I don't believe it,” he shouted in the crowded bar. “I can see the excitement right now.”

Independent polls have generally showed Corbett leading since the primary, although a Muhlenberg College/Allentown Morning Call tracking poll of likely voters released Sunday showed Corbett losing ground, from a 15-point lead on Wednesday to 7 points in the four-day telephone survey that ended Saturday.

“The polls are still all over the place. It's crazy,” Onorato said Sunday.

Corbett, whose name recognition has been buoyed by his office's nearly 4-year-old investigation into alleged corruption in the Legislature, was the latest statewide candidate to address a Sunday service at the large church at 22nd and Bainbridge streets where he urged people to vote.

The U.S. Senate candidates -- Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey -- addressed the congregation on separate Sundays earlier this month, church officials said.

In his remarks, Corbett said problems like crime, high school dropout rates and the number of young Pennsylvanians who leave to take jobs in other states transcend racial and religious boundaries.

“Pray for us,” he said. Prayer is “not reserved for Sunday.”

Leaders of the church said it does not endorse candidates but welcomes them as speakers. Several leaders who were interviewed declined to say which candidate they support, but some said they believe turnout will be surprisingly high.

Voters are “more engaged than the media gives them credit for,” said James Strong, the church's director of protocol. “It's probably more low-key (than in previous elections), and I believe you'll probably see it on Tuesday.”

The mostly male crowd that cheered for Onorato at the pub sounded confident that he will score an upset victory.

“He's one of us. He's from a middle-class neighborhood,” said Edward Rumick, an electrician who has been unemployed for the past 18 months.

“I think he'll bring jobs to Philadelphia,” said Lee Schwartz, a transportation company manager and Democratic ward leader in the city. “He has the experience. He did it in Pittsburgh.”

On Monday, while Corbett and Toomey fly to rallies across the state in a “barnstorming tour,” Onorato was scheduled to appear at rallies in McKeesport with former President Bill Clinton, in Harrisburg with Casey and in Philadelphia with first lady Michelle Obama.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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