Catherine Baker Knoll

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Catherine Baker Knoll (born September 3, 1930 in McKees Rocks, PA) is the former Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. She was a member of the Democratic Party. Knoll died in office in November 2008.[1]


Catherine Baker was born in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKees Rocks, the daughter of a successful grocer who later served as burgess of McKees Rocks. While a student at Duquesne University, she met and married Paul Knoll, a restaurateur and hotel owner 17 years her senior.

Knoll began her political career as a campaign worker for local and statewide Democratic candidates such as Milton Shapp. When Shapp was elected governor in 1970, he awarded Knoll a spoils job with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

State Treasurer

In 1976 she ran for the Democratic nomination for State Treasurer but lost to Robert E. Casey (not the future Pennsylvania Governor). She ran again in 1984 but lost a close and controversial primary to Al Benedict. After her husband's death in 1987, she decided to run a third time. In 1988, she was elected State Treasurer of Pennsylvania.

Knoll's tenure as treasurer was successful but controversial. She streamlined and modernized the Treasurer's office during her eight year tenure. In 1994, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into Knoll and her staff after a state consultant reaped improper fees from a bond issue. Knoll claimed that the official paperwork had been altered after she signed off on the plan. Baker was never charged with a crime but the well publicized inquiry hurt her politically. She endorsed her daughter Mina Baker Knoll as her successor in 1996 but questions arose concerning her residency status and she lost the election to Republican Barbara Hafer. The bitter political feud that erupted between the Knolls and Hafer turned personal and would worsen over the next several years. In 2000, Catherine tried to unseat Hafer as State Treasurer but lost the election by a narrow margin. By then the personal animosity between Knoll and Hafer had become nearly legendary in Pennsylvania politics.

Lt. Governor

In 2002, she sought the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. She won the nomination over endorsed candidate State Senator Jack Wagner. Catherine Baker Knoll was sworn in as Lt. Governor on January 21, 2003. She is the first woman to hold that position.

Lt. Governor Knoll has been criticized by many in the Pennsylvania political community for her controversial remarks and behavior that some critics have labeled "bizarre." Examples of this include numerous gaffes during public events (such as referring to Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell as Governor Edward G. Robinson), her alleged difficulties in presiding over the Pennsylvania State Senate during late night sessions, and a well publicized incident in which Lt. Governor Knoll took flak for showing up uninvited at and making controversial anti-war comments during the funeral of a Pennsylvania Marine who died in the Iraq War. The controversy surrounding Knoll's comments at the funeral, and her passing her business cards to relatives received nationwide attention and she was later forced to make a public apology for the incident. Governor Rendell also issued a public apology for Knoll's actions.

These incidents led many to speculate that Governor Rendell would attempt to drop Knoll from the Democratic ticket in the 2006 elections. However, Governor Rendell kept Knoll on the ticket.

In November 2005, Senator and former Lieutenant Governor Robert Jubelirer proposed legislation in which the Lt. Governor's primary election would be dropped in favor of the gubernatorial candidate selecting a "running mate" in the November general election, similar to a Presidential candidate selecting a running mate for the Presidential elections.

Indeed, despite her critics, Knoll maintains a key base of supporters. She is popular with voters in Pennsylvania's southwest, with many women, and with senior citizens. Because of this, trying to remove Knoll could have proven politically costly for Governor Rendell in terms of alienating those groups. It could also have proven financially costly if Knoll were to attempt to run anyway, forcing Rendell to support his chosen alternative in the Democratic Primary for Lt. Governor.

Four candidates announced bids against Knoll in the 2006 Democratic Primary: former Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Joe Hoeffel; the current Recorder of Deeds of Allegheny County, Valerie McDonald-Roberts; Robert Hall, III and Harrisburg political activist Gene Stilp.

Although Governor Rendell endorsed Knoll, some political analysts made note of the fact that, early in the race, Rendell also did not seem willing to intervene in the primary. This is unusual, because in the past, Rendell has shown a willingness to “twist arms” in Pennsylvania Democratic Primary contests to encourage opponents of his favored candidate to step out of the race. This happened in the U.S. Senate race in 2004, for example, when Rendell encouraged businessman Charlie Crystle to exit the Democratic Primary and allow Joe Hoeffel to win the nomination unchallenged. It happened again in the State Auditor General race that year, when Rendell encouraged State Representative Jennifer Mann to abandon her Democratic Primary bid against State Senator Jack Wagner.

To many, the fact that Rendell did not seem willing to encourage Hoeffel and McDonald-Roberts to abandon their bids against Knoll seemed to illustrate a hidden lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy. Indeed, when Congressman Hoeffel met with Rendell prior to deciding to run for Lt. Governor, neither Rendell nor his campaign manager raised objections.[2] (dead link) However, Rendell did, in fact, eventually involve himself in the race: Only a day after Hoeffel announced his bid, the Governor changed his mind and asked the former Congressman to withdrawal. Hoeffel would later state that Rendell came to the conclusion that he needed the geographic balance that Knoll provided for the Democratic ticket. Hoeffel's appointment to the $104,431-a-year job as deputy secretary for international business in the Department of Community and Economic Development was denounced by people who saw it as payback for his withdrawing from the primary against Knoll.

On May 16, 2006, Knoll won the Democratic nomination by a large margin. On November 7, 2006, she and Governor Rendell defeated Republican challengers Lynn Swann and Jim Matthews.

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