You all know by now — because you’ve been hearing it over and over — that the last time a Republican lost a Senate race in Kansas was 1932. The last time a Democrat was beaten in a West Virginia Senate campaign was 1956. These are serious milestones and we’re watching to see if these change with the results on November 4th.
But here’s something that you may not know: no Pennsylvania governor, of ANY party, has been defeated since … ready for it? … 1854. It is the longest winning streak in the country.
Now, in fairness, for a long time Pennsylvania governors were not permitted to succeed themselves. Between the 1880s (or thereabouts) and the late 1960s, it was one term and out. Voters changed that in 1968 when they amended the state constitution to place a two-term limit on the office. Going into effect after the 1970 elections, the new law allowed Milton Shapp (D) to be re-elected to a second term in 1974. Since then, EVERY governor of Pennsylvania has served two terms: Dick Thornburgh (R 1979-86), Bob Casey (D 1987-94), Tom Ridge (R 1995-2001)* and Ed Rendell (D 2003-10). In fact, the tradition of having the gubernatorial tenure of one party last for eight years, followed by eight years of the other party, has been continuous since the 1954 election. Thus, for 60 years, it’s been eight years Democratic, eight years Republican, without fail.
Blame it on the Penn State child sex abuse scandal that sent Jerry Sandusky to jail and ruined the legacy of Joe Paterno. Blame it on the rise in gasoline taxes (and gas prices) or the big cuts to education or his support for making women undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. Whatever, it appears that Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican elected fairly comfortably four years ago, has virtually no chance of defeating his Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf, next month. Even a sizable number of Republicans dislike him, though it brings up the obvious question as to why there was no real challenge to him in the May primary. This is pretty remarkable in a state that doesn’t throw out its governors.
But Corbett’s numbers have been abysmal for more than a year, enough time — one would think — for him to turn things around (see, for example, John Kasich in Ohio). He didn’t. And now he’s about to join William Bigler (D), the unsuccessful incumbent from 1854, on that tiny list of Pennsylvania governors who failed in their bids for re-election.
*A footnote from Scott Hanley, a former Pennsylvanian who is now the general manager at WBHM in Birmingham, Ala.: “While Tom Ridge was ELECTED to two terms, he ducked out early when selected for Homeland Security in 2001. Mark Schweiker, the lt. gov., took over for the remainder of the term (which ended in January 2003). He didn’t seek to keep the job in the election of 2002, which was won by Rendell.”