Former State Auditor General Jack Wagner has bailed out of the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race as suddenly and mysteriously as he got in, just five weeks ago.
Wagner always had the potential to be a credible candidate, both because he was the only guy in the field from western Pennsylvania, and because and he came with a good start in name recognition, having served in many public offices and run for a bunch more.
But Wagner waited and waited until February 20th to finally enter the Democratic primary, too late to raise the kind of money it would take for even a modest media campaign. And fundraising has never been Jack’s strong suit.
Indeed, Wagner told the Associated Press that fundraising was the problem. “Reality hit when I started to make phone calls to raise (money) after I filed my petition,” Wagner said, noting that many of his traditional supporters were committed to another candidate or not taking sides.
But he got enough nominating signatures to assure a place on the ballot, and when I saw him at a forum in Center City, Philadelphia Sunday he was was in fine form, the happy warrior who drove all the way in from Pittsburgh for the event.
Now he’s gone.
Who’s helped by Wagner’s exit?
When Wagner jumped into the race, the conventional wisdom was that it was probably good for U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, and bad for State Treasurer Rob McCord and York businessman Tom Wolf. The logic was pretty basic: Wagner, a moderate, pro-life Democrat whose base was in Western Pennsylvania wasn’t going to cut into the votes of Schwartz, a liberal a strong base in Philadelphia, but he could take a bite of the existing or potential support for Wolf and McCord, the other two guys in the race.
With Wagner’s departure, you can run the movie in reverse: It’s probably good news for Wolf and McCord, not so good for Schwartz. Former State environmental secretary Katie McGinty is also in the mix, a woman with less of a Philly base than Schwartz.