The Guzzardi factor
Long before there was a tea party, a political novice named Peg Luksik shocked the political establishment in 1990 by nearly knocking off then-Auditor General Barbara Hafer in a Republican primary for governor.
There's no question the conservative Luksik's challenge hurt Hafer's uphill battle against Democrat Gov. Robert P. Casey, who won easily in the November election.
Bob Guzzardi, an Ardmore attorney and self-described conservative reformer, is hoping for similar — or better — results in a Republican primary next year against incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett. Guzzardi is trying to gather the 2,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot.
Despite Corbett's chronically low poll numbers, he'll have millions of dollars to try to reshape his image with voters. Guzzardi, a successful real estate entrepreneur, is planning only a “minimal amount of money” for a campaign and he won't be soliciting contributions.
Guzzardi is a behind-the-scenes player. His politics? Think, in general terms, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Daryl Metcalfe.
He was a major contributor to and promoter of John Eichelberger of Altoona, who defeated Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, and Mike Folmer of Lebanon, who beat Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill, in the 2006 Republican primary in the aftermath of the 2005 pay-jacking the Senate leaders helped direct.
Guzzardi is banking on support from tea party-type groups and GOP reformers. He believes Internet networking will get out the word about his candidacy for limited government and economic freedom. “If all disaffected and disappointed Republicans vote in the May 20 primary, I can deny Tom Corbett the nomination and weaken the Harrisburg Republican leadership, which has disappointed and sold out,” said Guzzardi, a blogger who regularly rips Republicans he considers too liberal.
Corbett cannot win re-election and a Democrat will be the next governor, Guzzardi contends.
Any reasonable assessment suggests Guzzardi cannot win. And many political analysts, despite the poll numbers, do not write off Corbett. Much of it depends on which Democrat emerges from the Democrats' primary and what happens between now and November 2014.
If Guzzardi draws a heavy anti-Corbett vote in a primary, he can significantly damage Corbett's re-election prospects. Surely Guzzardi, a very bright guy, knows he would be indirectly helping a Democrat win.
Guzzardi likely doesn't care. He is committed to long-term reform of the Republican Party and he believes a Democrat will win anyway.
However, without spending money on TV advertising, there's also the possibility Guzzardi will merely be a footnote in the primary election; he will be considered a fringe candidate by some.
Guzzardi says he's giving GOP voters a choice. He says the $2.4 billion transportation bill Corbett sought and signed in November was the straw that broke the taxpayers' back. Corbett as a candidate in 2010 signed an anti-tax pledge. The transportation bill is funded by higher gasoline taxes at the pump.
The higher wholesale tax on gasoline is a user fee, supporters say. Corbett says it's a public safety issue to fix deteriorating roads and bridges.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or [email protected]).