“So,” I said to U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz when she got on the phone, “you ready to charge up another hill?”
Schwartz has made it official, declaring she will enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary next year, trying to become the first person to unseat an incumbent governor since, what, forever?
Schwartz has a history of reinventing herself, and after four terms in a Congress where her party is likely to remain in the minority for the foreseeable future, it’s about time for another turn.
Schwartz spent years in social services, founding a women’s health clinic and working in the city’s Department of Human Services. Then she was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate and spent 14 years in Harrisburg. At times, it seemed she was a fish out of water in the Capitol, but focused on her issues.
Then, in 2004, she fought a very tough primary and general election to win her congressional seat (make no mistake, she isn’t afraid to play rough). And now, this.
A horde of Democrats
Typically when Pennsylvania governors have run for re-election, the opposition party has practically taken out want ads to find a candidate. (Remember who the Democrats ran against Tom Ridge in 1998? Ivan Itkin.)
The remarkable thing about the forthcoming race is that Schwartz is but one of many Democrats of stature who are either in or testing the water.
York businessman Tom Wolf, a former state revenue secretary, has declared, pledging at least $10 million of his own money to the campaign. State Treasurer Rob McCord is widely believed to be ready for the plunge. And there are others, possibly including former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, and former state environmental secretary Kathleen McGinty. Rendell’s former environmental secretary, John Hanger, has been running for weeks now.
And, of course, whoever survives that scrum will face incumbent Republican Tom Corbett, who, however bruised he may be, will have plenty of campaign money and a will to fight.
“It will be a tough race,” Schwartz said, “but I’m convinced that Pennsylvanians are not only ready, but hungry for fresh leadership.”
Some Democrats have been saying that Schwartz is a strong candidate in the Democratic primary, but as a Philadelphia liberal the wrong horse to run against Corbett. (This line of discussion led to a snarky staff-level email exchange that rippled through the political community recently.)
The last guy who tried this
I asked former Gov. Ed Rendell what he thinks of Schwartz’s chances.
“In terms of the Democratic primary, she’s the front runner, no question about it,” he said, adding that Wolf’s money makes him a player if he’s really ready to spend $10 million.
“And, of course, everyone is waiting to hear what Congressman Sestak will do,” he said. “If he announced, he would be the front runner, just based on statewide name recognition and the fine race he ran (for U.S. Senate) in 2010.”
When I asked Rendell about the warning that Schwartz is too liberal to beat Corbett, he recalled his own uphill campaign for governor in 2002.
“They said that I’d be a poor candidate in a general election because I was from Philadelphia and was for gun control and things like,” he said. “It didn’t turn out that way, so I wouldn’t count Allyson out in a general.”