“The West usually wins because people out there tend to be more loyal to their own, while it’s not so much that way in Southeastern Pennsylvania,” Madonna said. “From watching the primary, I don’t think there was [a candidate with appeal] statewide among them. So I think it’s important to see who can raise the most money – and I think they’ll need about $4 million to $5 million to get a message to a statewide audience.”
Corbett defeated Castor by a relatively close 52 percent to 48 percent despite being endorsed by the Republican State Committee and having his opponent trash the endorsement process. Castor ran negative television advertisements depicting Corbett as a former lobbyist for the state’s largest waste company (Waste Management Inc.) and someone whose campaign was bankrolled by a convicted felon (GOP national committeeman Bob Asher).
Eisenhower defeated Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District David M. Barasch in a competitive primary. Eisenhower secured 38 percent of the vote, while Morganelli had 33 percent and Barasch 29 percent.
According to Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel partner Marty Weinberg, who has managed numerous political campaigns and himself run for mayor, in 1999, Eisenhower must overcome a number of factors.
“The Democrat always goes into the attorney general’s race as an underdog because there’s this perception that Republicans are better with law-and-order issues,” Weinberg said.
“Then there’s the issue of his close relationship with the governor. His wife (Nora Dowd) is in Rendell’s cabinet. There has always been this thought that we need an attorney general who is going to be a watchdog and that a Republican might be a better watchdog with a Democrat serving as governor. And, of course, there’s the fact that a Democrat has never served in the position since it became an elected office [in 1980].”
Madonna said both candidates will have to defend their records.
“Corbett will have to undo the damage done by those [Castor] commercials, which were devastating and really sowed the seeds for where he will be vulnerable in the general election – Bob Asher and Waste Management,” Madonna said. “Eisenhower will have to defend against not having any real experience doing the things that an attorney general does and also his relationship with Rendell in areas where the governor is not very popular.”
Corbett was appointed U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 1989, joined Thorp Reed & Armstrong in 1993 and was appointed by Ridge to replace Preate in 1995. He then served as counsel to Waste Management Inc. and now has a solo law practice.
Eisenhower’s experience includes spending three years prosecuting hate crimes and police misconduct in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, four years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and nearly a decade in private practice. He now serves as a partner at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, where Rendell was a partner in between his stints as Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor.
Steve O’Toole, communications director for the Castor campaign, said that Castor will “support all endorsed Republican candidates,” without mentioning Corbett by name.
Weinberg said that the Republican Party has always had the advantage of being unified and orderly. But after such a bitter primary, he said he wondered whether Republicans would be divided.
“When you have a situation where one party has had a stranglehold on a particular office, history tells us that the only way things change is if that party falls apart,” said Weinberg, who lost a tough 1999 Democratic primary for mayor against John Street.
“The Republicans ran Philadelphia until the 1950s, when the party was fractured, and that allowed [Democrats] like Joe Clark and Richardson Dilworth to become mayor.”
Corbett campaign manager Brian Nutt said he believes the Republican Party will rally around Corbett in November despite the harsh tenor of the primary.
“We’ve had tough primaries before,” Nutt said. “Just look at the gubernatorial race in 1994 (between Ridge and Preate). Mr. Castor is a very popular district attorney in a Republican-rich county, and that’s why he did so well. But the party will bounce back like it always does.”
Nutt said that he would have felt comfortable with either Pat Toomey or Arlen Specter running on the ticket above Corbett for U.S. senator. But he said he thinks the fact that Specter squeaked out a win Tuesday will help Corbett in Southeastern Pennsylvania, where the incumbent senator is based and where his moderate political views are embraced.
“There’s a reason why President Bush wanted him on the ticket.” Nutt said. “I think the Republicans have a very balanced ticket.”
Nutt said Corbett looked forward to debating the issues with Eisenhower and said that his candidate would run on his experience in fighting corporate fraud, cybercrime and drug trafficking. He added that despite the Waste Management issue, Corbett is prepared to defend his record on the environment.
Like Nutt, Eisenhower demurred when asked about possible campaign strategy. He said that he was the only one out of five primary candidates to run a wholly positive campaign and that he planned to run on issues such as consumer fraud, homeland security and modernizing the state’s environmental laws.
Eisenhower said he got to know Corbett when he replaced him as chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and has respect for his opponent. While he said he hoped to continue with his positive, issue-based approach, Eisenhower did point out differences between the two candidates.
“Tom and I have a different view about how the office should be run, and we’ll talk about that as things move along,” Eisenhower said. “But I think that 25 years of one party holding the office is too long, and Pennsylvanians are ready for a change. Despite what people have said about my relationship with the governor, I have a record of independence as a prosecutor. I had to bring cases against elected officials, and that has probably continued to hurt me politically today. But I’ve always done the right thing under the law.”
The next attorney general will be the fourth since Pennsylvania made the position an elected post in 1980. No Democrat has won the seat. LeRoy Zimmerman (1980-88), Preate (1988-95) and Fisher (1996-2004) were all Republicans. Jerry Pappert was appointed acting attorney general last year after Fisher was appointed to a federal judgeship.