I’m back home after a whirlwind two days in Harrisburg watching something is truly made in America: the smooth transition of power. From Presidents to governors to mayors and even the local dog catcher, moving power from one group to another is done in a peaceful in a democracy.
Such was the case in Harrisburg as Republican and now former attorney general Tom Corbett assumed the governorship from Democrat Ed Rendell. I had a unique insight on this process because I had sat down a couple of weeks earlier with the then governor-elect. It was the only one-on-one interview he did prior to his swearing-in. We covered many subjects, but the theme I came away with during our half-hour discussion was that he was going to balance the budget and achieve financial growth by reducing spending, not taxing more.
During the wet and cold inauguration on the capitol steps, there were familiar faces from our region. Just the presence of so many from western Pennsylvania signals a change in Harrisburg. For too long, the perception from western Pennsylvanians has been Harrisburg has been focused on the eastern half of the state. With Corbett, along with many other legislative leaders from here in positions of power, are certain to turn Harrisburg’s attention west.
Governor Tom Corbett addressing audience following being sworn-in at Inauguration in Harrisburg
The day itself was cold, wet and rainy. Ice had formed on all the chairs. I was as shocked as anyone they performed the ceremony outside, but I think it was more symbolic than anything else. After 8 years of the Rendell administration, the Republican governor and his people weren’t about let bad weather spoil their moment in the spotlight.
I saw many familiar faces from our region in the audience … all friends and colleagues of Corbett, including Allegheny County GOP committee chair Jim Roddey. In a moment of candor, he admitted to me that the incoming Governor knew his policies and measures would not be popular and was willing to accept the real possibility that if they did not work, he could very well be a one-term Governor. A sobering thought on Inauguration day.
Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Protestors, including people from Pittsburgh, at Inaugural in Harrisburg
Just outside the ceremony, another event took place. People from across the state, including a bus load from Pittsburgh, were there to protest Marcellus Shale gas drilling. They are concerned about the impact of the booming industry on the environment and their drinking water. Supporters told me they fear the industry could run rampant in the state because it was also one of the biggest contributors to the Corbett campaign. The governor-elect told me he plans to form a committee of environmentalists and industry leaders to look into the issues involving gas drilling in the state. We will watch … and see.
A final thought. This was the second inaugural I had ever covered. The first was the historic Obama inauguration which is still the coldest day I can remember. Obviously, this inaugural was smaller, but no less a display of the smooth transfer of power. It’s really one of those things we often take for granted, but one of those traditions that is truly American and should be celebrated …. no matter which party wins.