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Pennsylvania businessman leads Democratic polls ahead of primary

Holding a brochure picturing all democratic gubernatorial candidates vying for the chance to challenge incumbent Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbe
Holding a brochure picturing all democratic gubernatorial candidates vying for the chance to challenge incumbent Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Democrats will vote in a primary election on Tuesday to choose a candidate to face off against Republican Governor Tom Corbett in the November election.

Businessman Tom Wolf, a political novice who has poured his personal fortune into the race and dominated the airwaves for much of the primary campaign, is leading the pack of Democrats with 33 percent, according to a Franklin and Marshall poll.

His closest rival, Representative Allyson Schwartz, follows with 14 percent, while State Treasurer Rob McCord trails with 9 percent.

"I don't see a lot of drama in this," Terry Madonna, the poll's director and a longtime political watcher said of Wolf's chances of prevailing in the primary.

"Here's what's remarkable: a candidate who nobody knew anything about takes a 25-point lead three weeks after his commercials start running - and then nothing changes," he said.

In a state that tends toward moderates, Wolf, a former Peace Corp volunteer who ran his family's cabinet-making business in the central Pennsylvania city of York, is unapologetically progressive.

Wolf favors a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas drilling that Corbett has steadfastly opposed. And, whereas Corbett's principal legacy has been to slash spending and avoid raising taxes, Wolf says he plans to restore the governor's deep cuts to education.

State Republicans have branded Wolf, who was Secretary of Revenue in Governor Ed Rendell's Democratic administration, as "Taxman Tom Wolf," while Corbett's team has taken aim at Wolf as a tax-and-spend liberal.

Wolf's Democratic rivals have also been attacking him in recent weeks, but Wolf's approval rating has stayed constant.

"So far, he's been through a negative campaign and he's come through it without any gaffes, without any missteps," Madonna said. "He's on message, upbeat, not shrill. It's what voters want."

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Richard Chang)

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