Wolf, Corbett stayed true to their word |

Wolf, Corbett stayed true to their word

This is a tale of two conversations. The one with Tom Wolf occurred before the 2014 primary campaign even began. The one with Tom Corbett took place just weeks after he was elected governor, nearly four years ago. Together, they were harbingers of Wolf’s victory last Tuesday.

Early on, Wolf was an unknown good guy chasing an unlikely dream. He had a strong commitment to public education and economic development, and he crisscrossed the commonwealth, meeting with community leaders, grabbing a coffee when he could with average folks, and sometimes even with a newspaper columnist.

Wolf was a successful businessman with a story to tell, a former Peace Corps volunteer with a Ph.D. from MIT, a man who shared his company’s profits with his workers. He displayed a quiet passion for the big issues, but he was a stranger to the trench warfare that is a statewide campaign in Pennsylvania.

Bearded and bespectacled in a professorial kind of way, he simply did not look like a viable candidate. Worse, he hailed from the political hinterland of Pennsylvania, hardly a fertile ground for budding governors. And when asked how in the world he expected to get elected governor, considering all that, he laughed heartily and then explained.

He had sought out the smartest political minds he could find. “They have advised me that there is a narrow path to victory, and that if I stay on that path, I can win. I intend to stay on that path,” he said. And he did.

Almost four years earlier, over breakfast at Pamela’s in Pittsburgh’s Strip District on a wintry late December morning, Tom Corbett talked about his plans for his new administration. He would be leaving for Harrisburg the next day to prepare for his inauguration.

Corbett spoke with determination, describing his resolve to slash away at government programs, promising to take on the Legislature and vowing to impose austerity on an unrepentant bureaucracy. He would push for privatization, demand pension reform and put an end to legislative “walking around money,” earmarks used by legislators for local projects.

When asked how in the world he expected to get re-elected if he did all those things, Corbett said that if he lost, so be it, as long as he did what he believed was right. And he did.

“They said I might be a one-term governor, and I am, but I am proud of what we did,” Corbett said late Tuesday. And then he joined his pals for a cold beer at the hotel bar before calling it a night.

Marcus Aurelius, the last of what political strategist Niccolo Machiavelli called the “Five Good Emperors” of Rome, said, “Whatever may befall thee, it was preordained from everlasting.”

And so it was. Each candidate stayed true to his word, never varying from his chosen path. The die had been cast early, and the battle joined, the end of which both men had foretold.

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (

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