President Barack Obama speaks to the crowd of about 5,000 gathered in the Liacouras Center on Sunday. Kara Milstein | TTN
President Barack Obama headlined a list of five speakers at a rally on Sunday night to support Tom Wolf, the Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial election. Obama encouraged the crowd of about 5,000 gathered in the Liacouras Center to vote for Wolf today.
“Two days from now, you get to choose your future,” Obama said early in his 20-minute speech after an introduction from Wolf. “If you came to this rally unsuspecting, you should already know that there’s an election and you are planning to vote. Otherwise, you thought there was a basketball game here, and that is not the case.”
Obama discussed Wolf’s background in business while portraying him as a “nice guy” and “not a professional politician.” He also touched on issues like income equality and climate change.
“Tom has proven that when the going gets tough, he’s got your back,” Obama said.
When Obama discussed education, the crowd was particularly loud.
After a critique of Republican leadership and leading the crowd in a chant of, “vote, vote, vote,” Obama discussed the importance of casting a ballot.
“When you step in the voting booth, you’re making a choice not just about party, not just about candidates,” Obama said. “You’re making a decision about two different visions of America. You have to ask yourself who’s going to be fighting for you.”
In his introduction speech for Obama, Wolf discussed what he said were three main issues in the election: education, jobs and inclusion.
“We need to be fully funding our schools,” Wolf said.
After the speeches, Wolf told The Temple News how he planned to increase funding for public higher education. He said additional funding could come from a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction, which could raise “hundreds of millions of dollars for education.”
Wolf also discussed the need for colleges and universities to implement more business education and techniques in the classroom, which he said could help create jobs.
“One of the things I think we need to do a better job of is connecting basic research, in the classroom, on the hard drives, in the universities all across Pennsylvania, with businesses and the private sector,” Wolf said. “[And] bring some ways of maybe tying funding for higher education to how well the university’s doing in connecting those two things.”
Wolf mentioned his service as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for York College, touting the fact that its tuition was lower than Pennsylvania State University.
“We did that as a private college,” Wolf said. “I think the state plays not only a role in terms of funding, but also a leadership role, saying, ‘We have to do this.’”
State Sen. Michael Stack, running with Wolf as candidate for lieutenant governor, was the first speaker of the night. The representative of Northeast Philadelphia said the city would be key in helping “get out the vote” for Wolf.
Stack is also a state-senate-appointed Temple trustee whose seat on the Board would be filled at the discretion of the state senate’s minority leader if Wolf and Stack win the election.
Another Philadelphia politician that spoke on Sunday night was Mayor Michael Nutter. Nutter was the only speaker to receive a negative reaction from the crowd, coming onstage to a chorus of “boos.”
He dealt with the crowd reaction by immediately starting a “Tom Wolf” chant, and then spoke about Obama’s arrival and the importance of voting.
“There’s only one poll that matters on Tuesday,” Nutter said. “And that’s the polling place that you go to that day.”
Nutter also discussed the fact that an election victory for Wolf would be the first time in American history that an incumbent governor could be beaten in an election after one term.
Other speakers included Bob Casey, who has represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate since 2007, and Katie McGinty, who served under former Gov. Ed Rendell as Secretary of Environmental Protection.
Other Democrats in attendance included U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who represents the second district, and State Rep. Brian Sims, who represents the 182nd district.
After Obama’s speech, he and Wolf went through the crowd of people directly in front of the podium to shake hands.
Pedro Cortés, who served as Secretary of State for Pennsylvania from 2003-10 under Gov. Ed Rendell, and attended the event, said he was excited to see Obama.
“For me, it’s about bringing my daughter who is 14 years old to see the president up close and personal and to hear his message,” Cortés said. “I’m hoping what she heard today she will carry with her for the rest of her life.”
Cortés, who wore a “Latinos for Wolf” button on his suit, said he wants Pennsylvania’s growing Latino population to become a voting force.
“For too long we have been ignored, because in the minds of some politicians, we don’t come out and vote,” Cortés said. “So they see that as, ‘If you don’t elect me, you don’t kick me out, I don’t have to donate my time to you.’ The time has come for us to say, ‘That’s not going to happen anymore.’”
Joe Brandt can Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org