CANONSBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett faced a crowd of about 150 under a tent at Southpointe Wednesday afternoon, extolling the virtues of Pennsylvania energy, his record on education and job creation, and criticizing his Democratic opponent.
Though they may have been seated before him, the vast majority of the audience, metaphorically, was behind the Republican governor.
Corbett, supported by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, kicked off his re-election campaign outside the Hilton Garden Inn with a rousing rally promoted as “Energy Families for Corbett.” Surrounded by energy workers, many in hard hats and work apparel, the man who ran unopposed in Tuesday’s primary was virtually unopposed inside the tent.
The governor got three standing ovations.
“We now have a chance to show what the natural gas industry is doing for Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Corbett said in his opening remarks, which included references to the creation and growth of jobs in energy and support industries. “I ask you, do you like working in Pennsylvania?”
That was standing ovation No. 2, which included rousing cheers from Weavertown Environmental Group employees – men and women in hard hats – at his rear on the podium.
He, however, did not address U.S. District Judge John E. Jones’ overturning of Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban the day before. But Corbett did issue a prepared statement before the rally, saying he would not appeal the decision.
Selecting Southpointe apparently was an easy decision on the re-election kickoff venue. Press secretary Billy Pitman said the governor made a symbolic choice of “an area that has really seen growth” in the energy sector.
“From this hilltop,” Corbett said, “you can see how many new buildings are here, how many new jobs are here. These were abandoned lands three, four, five years ago.
“There are opportunities in this state. If you know anyone looking for a job, tell them to come to Pennsylvania. We have them here.”
Corbett said people not only are relocating to Pennsylvania for work, but that many who left years ago because of diminished opportunities are now coming back. He pointed out the state unemployment rate in December 2010, a month before he assumed office, was 8.2 percent. It was 5.7 percent in April.
Corbett, running with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, assailed his opponent, Tom Wolf, who won the Democratic nod Tuesday. The governor said the York businessman “wants to tax this industry. I don’t want to grow government. I want to grow industry.
“He wants more spending. I want to take spending and invest it in future investments.”
Energy was the theme, though, and Corbett stayed mostly with the program. It included congenial byplay with Perry, a Republican in the middle of his second term who announced last summer he will not seek a third.
“I wanted to show the governor of Texas where the first Houston is,” Corbett said. “I was telling Rick, we went from No. 5 to No. 2 in natural gas. He leaned in and said, ‘Who’s No. 1?’
“I told him we’re coming after you.”
Perry strode to the microphone a minute later, lending support and praise to his contemporary.
“I want Pennsylvania to keep pushing,” Perry said. “I want this to be a state where people across the nation will look and say, ‘This is what we want to be.’
“Tom Corbett has done a masterful job. Let’s make sure he has four more years of opportunities.”