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PITTSBURGH Gov. Tom Corbett and his Democratic Party challenger Tom Wolf put their stark policy contrasts on display for Pennsylvania voters in the third and last scheduled debate of the gubernatorial campaign.
Besides their the candidates disagreed from the studios of television station WTAE Wednesday night in Pittsburgh on many other issues.
Here's a sampling that offers a deeper look at just how different these candidates are:
Corbett said he still believes it is an option worth having especially in cases like last month's and does have some lingering deterrent effect on crime.
Wolf said he would seek to impose a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania to allow for a self-examination of deeper questions about the fairness and accuracy of the death penalty's application across Pennsylvania.
Corbett, noting the emphasis should be on helping people understand that minimum wage jobs are entry-level positions to help prepare you for something better, said he'd rather keep Pennsylvania at the federal floor of .25 per hour.
Wolf said he would support raising Pennsylvania's minimum wage to .10 per hour, with inflation-based adjustments after that.
Stricter voter identification laws
Corbett said he would sign another version of a photo identification requirement for voting in Pennsylvania if the Legislature presented him with a bill. "It makes sure that one person has one vote, and it makes sure there is accuracy in that vote," he said.
Wolf said he'd block such a bill, and called the policya cynical attempt by Republicans to try to disenfranchise blocs of voters who tend to support Democratic candidates.
Corbett emphasized his law-and-order background and pointing to the reduction of the number of homicides in Philadelphia said effective use of existing laws can have a dramatic effect on fighting gun crimes.
Wolf promised a "rational conversation" on new gun laws he did not mention specific proposals aimed at balancing Second Amendment rights with the rights of city residents to have safe streets.
Corbett said he'd support limited clinical trials of oils developed for medicinal purposes in Pennsylvania hospitals, but reiterated his reluctance at this point to support a broader law change like that
He acknowledged his caution owes to his background as a prosecutor and his belief that marijuana use often opens the door to other drugs.
Wolf said he would support a broader medical marijuana bill, as well as steps toward the decriminalization of possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Shrinking the size of the Legislature
Corbett said he's for it, and added that he'd like to see the duties of the Pennsylvania legislators changed from full time to part time.
Wolf said he oppose this.
"We live in a democracy, and I think in a democracy the last place you would want to cut is the number of people who are accountable to the public through the vote," he said. "... I don't see how it actually improves our democracy."
Observations of the candidates
As the campaign leaves the head-to-head debate stage and moves into the final month of what are likely to be increasingly negative television ads, independent observers said Wednesday that both camps could leave this chapter with some positives.
For an incumbent trailing in the polls, Corbett looked to be in command and sure of his policy objectives, and more than capable of defending a record that Wolf has tried mightily to make the focus of the campaign thus far.
He also continued to push hard against the unknowns in the Wolf platform, like future state personal income tax rates, and at just what income level Wolf's proposed reforms will turn from net cuts into an increase.
Wolf has said he won't know those answers till he sees the precise parameters of the budget challenges he faces this winter, though he has consistently predicted that there would be net tax breaks for households in the ,000 to ,000 income range or lower.
Corbett's supporters could take heart, Muhlenberg College political science professor Chris Borick said, that their candidate is not going to go quietly into that political night.
"He needed to show that he is still a relevant option, and I think that he did that within the context of these debates," Borick said.
Wolf, meanwhile, worked to bring nearly every answer back to Corbett's record, Borick noted, which given the governor's low approval rating is right where he wants the focus to be.
But more than anything, playing as the front-runner in the polls, former Gov. Ed Rendell's Revenue secretary avoided the kind of gaffe or meltdown that could cause large numbers of potential supporters to reconsider their choice.
"His approach was: 'Let's do no harm, here,'" Borick said.
Wednesday's debate will be rebroadcast several time over the next few days on various outlets, including on the Pennsylvania Cable Network at 10 a.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Monday, and 5 a.m. Tuesday.
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