Buzz at Pennsylvania Society gathering is about A.G. Kane

Gov. Corbett greets Pennsylvania Society member David L. Cohen during the group's annual dinner in New York City.
Gov. Corbett greets Pennsylvania Society member David L. Cohen during the group's annual dinner in New York City. (DANIELLE RICHARDS / For The Inquirer)
Posted: December 16, 2013

NEW YORK The annual migration of the commonwealth's wealthiest and most powerful - otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Society gathering - roared into Manhattan this weekend.

This year's event was supposed to be about the governor's race - and the question of whether Gov. Corbett will be able to overcome sagging public approval ratings to earn another term in office. Most of the Democratic candidates vying for his job made the trek to hold fund-raisers and rub elbows with potential supporters and influential advocacy groups.

Yet it was speculation about the political future of a relative newcomer to the political scene with star-power polling that got the most tongues wagging.

The subject of bar-side talk at most of the soirees was Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The question: Is she eyeing a run for Senate in 2016 against Republican Pat Toomey?

The talk was so rampant Friday night that Democrats and Republicans alike groused that Kane, one of the state's biggest headline-makers in her first year in office, was shifting the focus away from what is shaping up to be one of the toughest second-term races for a Pennsylvania governor.

The speculation was another indication Kane is perhaps the Democrat to watch in the next few years. Those who know her say Kane wanted to send the message to donors and the political class to hold off on committing to any specific Senate candidate.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat, has already indicated interest in running for the seat.

For her part, Kane played it coy, saying she intended to run for reelection as state attorney general in three years and had no plans to enter the crowded Democratic field for the governor's race, as has been rumored.

"I love being the attorney general," she said, speaking outside a forum hosted by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association at the posh Metropolitan Club.

She said she had held three fund-raisers this year to raise money for the office she holds.

"And I am doing the best job that I can." But, she added: "Whatever happens several years down the road, so be it."

Several Democrats seeking to unseat Corbett said the annual gathering gives them a one-stop shop to meet potential supporters and explain their policy positions.

"I found myself arguing with somebody about lottery privatization at midnight last night," said state Treasurer Rob McCord, one of eight Democrats in the field. "But I enjoy that. I'm used to that as sort of a contact sport."

Fellow challenger U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), touted as a front-runner, said the weekend was about "mixing and mingling with Pennsylvanians." She would not make any predictions about whether the field would thin before the primary. But she said, "I'm not going anywhere."

Corbett, not known as a social butterfly, ramped up his schedule and turned on the social charm over the weekend.

He was visible at many venues, including a private fund-raiser Friday thrown by New York billionaire John Catsimatidis, and the usually early-to-bed governor partied into the wee hours Saturday.

Corbett said he was not uncomfortable working the same hallways and meeting rooms - and sometimes crossing paths with the Democrats who want to unseat him. "That's part of the political process," he said.

"Everywhere I go, people are behind me. . . . People come up to me and say, 'Governor, I voted for you, you told us what you're going to do and you've done it, and I'm going to vote for you again.' "

Corbett said his first years in office were not easy, given the state's financial condition.

"I think people will understand [that] when it comes to November of next year," he said.

Still, there were awkward moments for Corbett.

At a forum Friday where all the gubernatorial candidates spoke, Corbett discussed his tenure and agenda.

At one point, Philadelphia business leader Harold T. Epps, president and CEO of PRWT Services Inc., a business-services company, got up to ask a question. Apparently not recognizing him, Corbett asked him to identify himself.

Epps' response, said a guest in the room: "I've had you in my office and I've given you money."

Others spotted making the rounds were Sens. Bob Casey and Toomey, U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent and Mike Fitzpatrick, Mayor Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke, and former Gov. Ed Rendell.

The recipient of the gold medal award at the gala dinner Saturday was Vice President Biden. The black-tie event, featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra, honors a prominent individual - often a Pennsylvanian - for leadership and contributions to the arts, industry, science, and education.


717-783-2584 aworden@phillynews.com@inkyamy on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writer Jonathan Tamari contirbuted to this article.

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