During a wide-ranging interview this week, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) talked exclusively with FOX43 about his reelection prospects and the status of Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s investigation into his handling of the Sandusky case.
Recent polling has shown Pennsylvania voters don’t believe the governor deserves a second term.
In a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday (click here for full poll results), 55 percent of voters said they don’t believe he deserves reelection, compared to 34 percent of voters who do believe he deserves a second term.
“I haven’t run any pro advertisements for me until now, until this point in time. When we get the message out to the people of Pennsylvania, we’ll show that we are going in the right direction,” said Corbett. “The polls at this point are so far out beyond any realm of reality, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes time to the election in November.”
The governor stressed that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has dropped from its peak of 8.7 percent in March 2010, shortly after he took office, to 6.9 percent in December 2013. The national unemployment rate was 6.7 percent that month.
In January, the total labor force in Pennsylvania was 6,443,000 people, which was down by about 92,000 from the previous January. At the same time, Corbett touts an increase of 115,000 private sector jobs during his tenure.
“We have seen a better atmosphere for businesses to grow in Pennsylvania, small, medium and large businesses to come to Pennsylvania,” said Corbett.
Democrats have criticized the governor for the rate of job growth.
“Compared to other states, our job creation record is really not outstanding at all,” said Beth Melena, spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party. “When Tom Corbett took office, he cut business taxes instead of sustaining education funding throughout Pennsylvania…And, when parents and teachers see that their students are being negatively affected, they’re going to vote against Tom Corbett when it comes to November.”
Education funding has been a major source of contention at the Capitol throughout Corbett’s tenure. When federal stimulus money ran out, Democrats hammered Corbett for not doing more to make up for the difference, blaming him for cuts to education.
In next year’s budget, Corbett has proposed nearly $400 million in additional spending for schools.
“Today we have more money, state money, in education than at any time in the history of Pennsylvania. That’s a fact. There are some on the other side of the aisle that do not want to admit that. But, we do,” said Corbett. “And, we’re investing the money. It’s not how much you spend. It’s how much you invest it.”
What remains to be seen is how the Sandusky investigation may impact the campaign.
Attorney Gen. Kathleen Kane (D) is still looking into how Corbett handled the case, including whether his run for governor caused a delay in charges being announced in the case.
Corbett denies politics played any role.
“We have not received any questions from (Kane),” said Corbett.
Corbett’s spokesman, Jay Pagni, confirmed lawyers for Kane reached out to lawyers for Corbett for the first time about a month ago to try to arrange an interview.
A spokesman for Kane did not comment on why that hadn’t happened sooner.
Kane updated her progress on the case earlier this month, saying in a news release “…certain factors have combined to slow the process, not all of which were anticipated. Chief among them have been significant and time-consuming challenges in obtaining important written records, particularly emails. For reasons that will be described in more detail when the report is made public, until last fall we believed that OAG emails for the relevant time period had been permanently removed from OAG storage systems (pursuant to a then-existing document-retention policy) and were unrecoverable. Since then, we have developed a recovery process that is ongoing.”
After Corbett became governor, acting Attorney General Bill Ryan shortened the office’s email retention policy from five years to six months. Corbett said he played no role in that decision.
“I would think that the number of conversations I might have had with Bill Ryan, who was the acting attorney general, might have been one or two, had nothing to do with the operating of the office because I shouldn’t interfere with the operation of the office. When I left to become governor, I became governor, had nothing to do with that,” said Corbett.
Kane hasn’t said when she’ll release her report. During a Senate budget hearing earlier this month, she was asked if she expected the report before October. She replied, “Oh, I certainly hope so, yes,” according to media reports on the hearing.
FOX43 conducted the interview with Corbett on Tuesday, two days before his outpatient procedure to repair an abdominal hernia. His spokesman said the procedure was successful. The governor is recuperating at his home near Pittsburgh. Corbett did not mention the procedure during our interview.
Note: The second part of the interview with Gov. Corbett will air Friday evening at 10 p.m. and will include questions viewers submitted via our Facebook page. FOX43 also will have coverage of Friday’s debate among the Democratic candidates for governor.