Gubernatorial candidate Rob McCord says the controversy surrounding his recent ad attacking Democratic Primary frontrunner Tom Wolf isn’t about Wolf being racist. He doesn’t believe he is. It’s about being a leader—that, he believes, Tom Wolf isn’t.

The ad notes that in 2001 Wolf stood by then York Mayor Charlie Robertson after he was arrested for murder for his role in a 1969 race riot where a 26-year-old woman was killed by a White gang.

Wolf was chair of Robertson’s reelection committee and said he would continue to serve as chair for the general election. Robertson dropped out of the race the following day, and was later acquitted.

“NBA Commissioner Silver had two days to look at (Los Angeles Clippers) owner Donald Sterling’s remarks and banned him. Two days after learning Robertson (then a York policeman) admitted to shouting ‘White power’ and handing out ammunition, said he’d continue to serve,” McCord told the New Pittsburgh Courier editorial board. “I know Tom is not a racist, but this was a leadership test, and Tom Wolf failed.”

McCord was denounced by some, including Philadelphia state Rep. Dwight Evans, York’s first Black and female Mayor Kim Bracey—who also appeared in Wolf’s response ad–of “playing the race card” in desperation because he trails Wolf by 25 points in the polls.

But McCord said the only African-Americans denouncing him are those to whom Wolf made large campaign contributions.

“Overwhelmingly the response I’ve gotten from grass-roots African-Americans has been positive,” he said. “Controversy brings heat, but also light. I’m not going to let a rich guy buy this.”

As to that—Wolf spending a huge amount of “his own money” on a successful media campaign painting himself as a businessman who rescued the family business twice—McCord said that story is misleading.

Wolf, he said, sold the family business to an investment firm whose primary shareholders were Pennsylvania retirement funds, when it failed, they lost. Wolf bought it back for a substantial discount. Secondly, his media campaign has been financed by a bank loan, which Wolf declines to discuss.

“I’ve built businesses from scratch. I didn’t just walk into the family business,” said McCord, who made his fortune as a capital investment principal focusing on technology.

Changing tack again, as he energetically and gregariously does often, McCord said all his personal, professional and policy experience—gained as a child of divorce with dyslexia, as an entrepreneur and as a congressional aid and state treasurer—make him the best candidate to defeat Tom Corbett in November, because he already has.

McCord championed the fight against privatizing the state lottery, gaining even Republican support after showing Corbett’s plan involved a single bidder and would have driven down state gambling revenue by cannibalizing the casino monopoly on keno games if it had been legal—which state attorney general Kathleen Kane said it was not.

His major focus is education, and reversing Corbett’s cuts in spending, which even though the governor said he would enact, he doesn’t think the voters grasped.

“Yeah, well, people didn’t follow him saying ‘the natural implication of this stupid thing I pledged was to do this other stupid thing,’” said McCord. “We don’t need a race between two dull old White guys. I’m colorful. I’m definitely not dull.”

He, like his rivals in the primary, would tax Marcellus Shale drillers to fund education, but at a 10 percent rate, twice what others propose. And like his rivals, he would raise the minimum wage. His plan is tiered, however: $10.70 per hour, rising to $11.70 over a decade; $5 per hour for tipped wait staff, and maintaining the $7.50 per hour rate for teens and students.

McDonald’s and Walmart can handle the increase and mom-and-pops could afford it by hiring teens and students, he said.

McCord didn’t discuss his general tax or energy policies, he noted that education policy and outcomes have in some part been driven by race, and that has to change. He said he is probably more sensitive to that than many because he sees it daily—his wife Leigh is Black, and more than once has been mistaken for a servant by blithely oblivious Whites.

“That’s why I wanted to speak to the Courier, because you speak for those who routinely are not heard,” he said. “I bring the experience to see and hear people who for too long have been ignored by top-tier politicians.”

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