HARRISBURG -- “Tea Party Tom” became “One-Term Tom" as voters ousted one-term incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday, electing Democrat Tom Wolf governor.
Corbett conceded shortly before 10 p.m., while defending his record. A former state revenue secretary, Wolf led with 55 percent of the vote with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
“We delivered on the promises we made in 2010,” Corbett told supporters in Pittsburgh. To do so, he said, required making difficult decisions that he said he knew would be unpopular. Corbett was attorney general before being elected governor.
Corbett becomes the first incumbent governor ousted by voters since before the Civil War - though governors were not allowed to seek a second term from 1874 to 1968.
The election was the most expensive in Pennsylvania history, as the candidates poured more than $73 million into the race. Wolf, a wealthy York County businessman, put up $10 million of his own and received more than $5 million from labor groups including teachers groups.
Public sector unions were just a few of the obstacles in Corbett's way.
His opposition to an extraction tax on natural gas drilling was at odds with public sentiment. His role in the firing of iconic Penn State coach Joe Paterno - Corbett was a member of Penn State's board of trustees - proved a source of lingering controversy.
A series of scandals hampered his efforts to gain campaign traction. Most recently, some of his associates were found to be in a group exchanging pornographic messages on government email accounts.
In Wolf’s hometown of Mount Wolf - named for his great-grandfather - Mary Toomey, 85, was giddy but nervous. She said she's known Wolf his whole life.
“I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “But I’m proud to see this happen.”
James Kinder, former mayor of Mount Wolf, said Wolf is a "hard worker" but acknowledged that he faces daunting challenges as governor, with an uncertain budget situation and Republican control of both chambers of the Legislature.
“He’s got his work cut out for him,” Kinder said. “But he can work with people, and it’s all for the greater good. He’s got a shot at getting things done.”
John Finnerty is CNHI's state reporter for Pennsylvania.