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Lots of money, little fervor in governor's race

It has come in chunks of $10,000 or $20,000 - or $100,000. Led by big business and big labor, the traditional powers in each party have paved the way for Republican Tom Corbett and Democrat Dan Onorato to collect a combined $32 million - $16 million each - in the race for governor.

It has come in chunks of $10,000 or $20,000 - or $100,000.

Led by big business and big labor, the traditional powers in each party have paved the way for Republican Tom Corbett and Democrat Dan Onorato to collect a combined $32 million - $16 million each - in the race for governor.

Campaign-finance reports released Tuesday show that 12 individuals and groups, not counting party organizations, have given $100,000 or more to Corbett, whose financing has increased as his poll numbers have grown.

Onorato's reports show that he has received donations of $100,000 or more from 11 individuals or groups, not counting party committees.

Corbett's leading donors are Terrence and Kim Pegula, who have given $280,000. The Pegulas earned a fortune from East Resources Inc., a gas-drilling company with rights to Marcellus Shale. Now retired, they recently gave $88 million to Pennsylvania State University for an ice-hockey program.

Corbett, the state attorney general, has pledged as governor to block a tax on gas extraction. He has received hundreds of thousands of additional campaign dollars from gas interests.

The top donor to Onorato is the Laborers union, whose affiliates have contributed $409,000, according to an Inquirer analysis of campaign-funding records since January 2009. Construction-trade unions have supported Onorato's call for rebuilding the state's infrastructure and creating public-private economic-development projects.

The Democratic nominee has pledged, as governor, to protect the pension plans of teachers and state employees. His second-largest donor - at $325,000 - is the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

With five weeks to go before Election Day, the race has yet to generate much public attention. The two candidates from Pittsburgh are still basically introducing themselves to voters in much of the state.

The heaviest TV ad campaigns have yet to start. Corbett, as of Sept. 13, had $7.7 million left in the bank. Onorato had $3.3 million.

Pollster G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, said the financial crises facing the state - billions in budget and pension gaps - have limited what candidates can promise to excite voters.

They have pledged to create jobs, to trim the budget, to clean up Harrisburg. But that doesn't generate the sort of voter excitement - or donor excitement - that helped Gov. Rendell raise a historic $40 million in his first run for governor in 2002.

The money chase has been left mostly to insiders. For Republicans, that means business. For Democrats, it means unions and trial lawyers.

"They're going back to the traditional interests that Republicans and Democrats have," Madonna said. "But they're not widening it to get beyond that point. There is no energy and excitement to the campaign."

Most public polls show Corbett with a lead of about 10 points. The longer he holds a large lead, Madonna said, the more some donors might lean away from Onorato and toward Corbett. Corbett, since June, has raised $6.1 million; Onorato, $4.1 million.

Pennsylvania is one of few states that have no limits on the size of donations by individuals and political committees, so the cash can come in buckets.

Each national political party is heavily invested in the race. Recent reports show a $1.5 million contribution to Corbett from the Republican Governors Association and $760,000 in contributions to Onorato from the Democratic Governors Association.

Corbett's top donations include $200,000 from James Middleton and his wife, Leigh. Middleton, who owned cigar businesses, is a part-owner of the Phillies.

Philadelphia-area lawyer Vahan H. Gureghian, a charter-school executive, has given him $184,000. Ronald Krancer, a GOP donor who is a nephew of the late Walter Annenberg, has given $125,000. Corbett also has received $105,000 from Foster S. Friess, a mutual-funds executive from Wyoming who runs the Brandywine Funds.

John M. Templeton Jr., president of the John M. Templeton Foundation, named for his father, donated $100,500 to Corbett. Records show that Templeton has also given $850,000 to the Republican State Committee, which is working hand in hand with the Corbett campaign.

Four wealthy individuals have each given $100,000 to Corbett. These include Bob J. Perry, a housing developer from Houston who was among donors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that helped sink Democrat John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. The others are Samuel P. Black 3d, chairman of Erie Management Group; Wayne Michael Boich, an Ohio-based coal broker; and Richard M. Scaife, publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper.

Pennsylvania's Republican Party national committee members - Robert Asher of Montgomery County and Christine J. Toretti of Indiana County - also have been Corbett financiers.

Toretti, CEO of the S.W. Jack Drilling Co., has given $103,000.

Asher heads a political action committee - the Pennsylvania Future Fund - that has given $124,500. His PAC has spent an additional $232,000 since June on promoting GOP candidates.

Onorato, the Allegheny County executive, has benefited from political relationships - with unions and others - that he has developed in his seven years of working on economic projects in the Pittsburgh area.

Besides laborers and teachers, his top union supporters include affiliates of the electrical workers union ($322,000), the Service Employees International Union ($191,000), and the Teamsters union ($180,000).

The Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, which opposes tort-law changes proposed by Corbett, gave $200,000 to Onorato through its Committee for a Better Tomorrow.

Onorato's biggest individual donor is H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, a former cable-television executive from the Philadelphia area, who gave him $200,000 in May. Others include David W. Minnotte ($117,000), a Pittsburgh manufacturing and construction executive; Ron Burkle ($100,000), a supermarket magnate and Democratic donor from Los Angeles; and Thomas Buckner and his wife, Gail ($100,000). Buckner is a Pittsburgh-area defense contractor.

State Sen. Sean Logan, a Pittsburgh-area Democrat who is not seeking reelection, gave $110,000 to Onorato from his campaign fund.