Turnout down in Pa., but Wolf was strong where it mattered

    Unofficial statewide tallies show Tuesday’s voter turnout dipped compared with Pennsylvania’s last gubernatorial election in 2010. Still, Democrat Tom Wolf was able to beat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett with a 10-point margin by piling up votes in the state’s urban centers.

    Both candidates lost their home counties, but for Wolf, winning the populous Allegheny County more than made up for losing his home turf in York County.

    The Philadelphia region once again proved crucial. Wolf won all five counties in the southeast, though the race was rather tight in Bucks and Chester counties — in each, Corbett trailed by just four points.

    The governor-elect owned Philadelphia, taking 88 percent of the vote. But turnout for Wolf was lower than it was for either former Gov. Ed Rendell in 2002 or Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato in 2010.

    Centre County, won by Corbett four years ago, went to Wolf this time by a margin of about 15 points. The county is home to Penn State’s main campus, and some school alumni are still angry over Corbett’s role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case and the ensuing ouster of its late football coach Joe Paterno.

    Voter registration in Pennsylvania has continued to decline since its record high in 2008 of 8.8 million. As of last week, the statewide voter registration count stood at just 8.2 million.

    Wolf’s victory was comfortable — and declared soon after the polls closed — but he received fewer votes this year than Corbett received four years ago when he won his first term. In the state House and Senate match-ups, Republicans cleaned up, strengthening their majorities in both chambers.

    “I think this was an awful year for Democrats across the country,” said Anne Wakabayashi, spokeswoman for the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. “I have a friend tracking results for Congress, and halfway through the night she was like, ‘This is just a bloodbath.'”

    “At the end of the day if your name wasn’t Tom Wolf and you had a ‘D’ behind your name, you just weren’t going to win,” Wakabayashi added.

    Democratic consultant Larry Ceisler agreed.

    “This election was about Tom Corbett — it wasn’t about Tom Wolf,” Ceisler said. “It wasn’t about some of the Democratic members of the General Assembly who lost… nationally, this was a GOP election. Tom Corbett was a real outlier.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.