MANCHESTER, Pa. (AP) - One day after his resounding victory in the state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, Tom Wolf suggested Wednesday that he will be a better handler of Pennsylvania’s burgeoning natural gas industry than the Republican he hopes to unseat, Gov. Tom Corbett.
“I think this could be wonderful thing for Pennsylvania if we do it right,” Wolf told reporters on his way into a small restaurant near his hometown of Mount Wolf where he spoke briefly with voters.
Meanwhile, at a Corbett campaign event near his home city of Pittsburgh, Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined the governor in a celebration of the industry.
About 200 supporters, including many natural-gas workers in hard hats, were on hand in Canonsburg as Corbett repeatedly praised the gas drilling boom and said, “I want to see the re-industrialization of Pennsylvania.”
Wolf “wants to tax this industry more. He wants to grow government,” Corbett said, adding that the natural gas industry has boomed during his administration. After decades of minor natural gas production, Pennsylvania has surged to rank second in the nation, behind only Texas.
Wolf emphasized Wednesday that he supports the industry, but with conditions. He advocates a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction, which would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state government, and tougher laws to protect people and the environment. Corbett opposes a severance tax on natural gas extraction, saying it would impede the industry’s growth.
“If we partner with the gas industry correctly, this could be a game-changer for Pennsylvania’s economy. So to say one (candidate) is supporting the gas industry and the other is not is just wrong,” Wolf said.
Wolf, 65, a millionaire businessman, won 58 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s four-way contest. The immensity of Wolf’s victory was underscored by the fact that he carried all 67 of the state’s counties - including Philadelphia and its suburban counties, where his opponents live.
Among the small crowd of local residents gathered outside the restaurant was Jim Kinder, who grew up with Wolf and served as mayor of Mount Wolf - named after the candidate’s ancestors - for 26 years ending in 2010. Asked what he considered Wolf’s best quality, he said it is his communication skills.
“I’ve never seen him riled up. I’ve never seen him mad,” Kinder said.
Associated Press writer Kevin Begos contributed to this story from Canonsburg.