By Jen Bush
INDIANA — Tom Wolf, Democratic candidate for governor, flipped burgers and delivered an order of campaign rhetoric for a come-and-go crowd at a union-sponsored get-out-the-student-vote rally at Indiana University of Pennsylvania around midday Saturday.
The aroma of grilled hotdogs and hamburgers filled the crisp autumn breeze on Pratt Drive in front of Wallwork Hall as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen and rap music blared from speakers mounted on an AFL-CIO recreational vehicle emblazoned with union insignia. The traveling union sponsors billed the stop as a “Burgers and Ballots Election Tailgate,” part of a tour of college campuses.
Wolf, who is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, arrived separately before noon on a big blue charter bus bearing a “Fresh start for Pennsylvania” banner. The candidate’s wife, Frances, and daughters, Sarah and Katie, accompanied him. Borough Mayor George Hood welcomed him with a handshake.
Wolf worked the crowd of about a hundred and took a turn at the grill before mounting the RV’s hydraulic-tailgate stage to address issues — rising tuition, student debt and higher-education budget cuts – listed on promotional fliers posted around the campus.
Wolf delivered, as advertised.
“In think we should be forgiven for saying, ‘I don’t like where we have been going with education in Pennsylvania, any part of it – basic education, higher education,’ ” Wolf said. “We have not taken it seriously.”
“I understand you can’t throw money at every problem,” Wolf said. “But I think we need to make sure that we are fully and adequately and fairly funding education.”
The audience applauded. But earlier, a foursome identifying themselves as members of the College Republicans group stood 50 feet north of the RV tailgate and held protest signs. One person, who declined to speak, wore a wolf suit and held a sign that read, “Don’t 3x My Tax Rate.”
Shortly, an AFL-CIO representative fell in line next to finance and legal studies student Kaleb M. Bennett, who held a pro-Corbett poster. The union man’s hand-written sign read, “His cuts increased tuition by 16%.”
The protestors departed before Wolf started speaking.
Jen Bush, of Indiana, Pa., is a senior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.