U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz said Monday she decided to enter the governor’s race, even though history is not on her side, because she thinks Gov. Tom Corbett’s economic and education policies have failed the citizens of this state.
Schwartz (D-13th dist.) is serving her fifth two-year term, holds a safe seat, serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and was planning to be finance chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2014 election cycle.
“I’m giving up a job I like,” said Schwartz, whose House term expires at the end of next year. “I work hard at the job on behalf of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County.”
Corbett, a Republican, was elected in 2010, but has been plagued by low voter-approval numbers in surveys.
Still, he’ll be well funded and has history on his side. Since the 1968 Pennsylvania Constitution allowed governors to run for a second term, all of them — Milton Shapp, Dick Thornburgh, Bob Casey, Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell — have been re-elected.
Schwartz thinks Corbett has failed so far, but was mindful of the power of incumbency.
“Should we wait another four years?” she asked.
In the end, Schwartz decided to try to make Corbett a one-term governor.
“I want to bring my skills and experience on behalf of all Pennsylvanians,” she said. “People know I’ll stand up for them.”
In the race, she’ll be able to use the $3 million or so she had in her congressional account.
If Schwartz — the only woman in the Pennsylvania congressional delegation — thought she could clear the field of Democrats, it didn’t happen.
At least four others have officially entered the race. They are Tom Wolf, a wealthy York County businessman and former secretary of the state Department of Revenue; Max Myers, a pastor, businessman and author from Cumberland County; Katie McGinty, a Rhawnhurst native who served as secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection; and John Hanger, a former DEP secretary.
Other possible candidates include state Sens. Mike Stack and Tim Solobay; state Treasurer Rob McCord; Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski; and former congressman Joe Sestak.
Schwartz declined to discuss her primary opponents in detail.
“We have very different experiences,” she said in an afternoon telephone call en route to Washington for evening votes.
Before entering politics, Schwartz, 64, founded the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center and served as commissioner of the city Department of Human Services.
Some Democrats have publicly and privately contended that Schwartz isn’t the strongest Democrat to oppose Corbett, pointing to her days at the health center, where abortions were performed. That background could hurt her in Central Pennsylvania and other conservative areas of the state.
Corbett is pro-life, and a race between him and Schwartz would reveal clear differences on social issues.
“There is a sharp contrast with the governor,” she said.
Schwartz represented Northwest Philadelphia and portions of the Northeast and eastern Montgomery County in the Pennsylvania Senate from 1991 to 2004, when she was elected to Congress.
In the Senate, she spent a decade as the Democratic Party chairwoman of the Education Committee. Today, she faults Corbett for budget cuts to higher education.
In Congress, her district is divided between Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
Locally, she’s focused on issues such as bringing federal dollars to make Roosevelt Boulevard safer for motorists and pedestrians and to revitalize the North Delaware River waterfront.
“I’ve made a strong connection to Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County,” she said.
In addition, she has worked on veterans issues. President George W. Bush signed her bill that gives tax credits to businesses that hire veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Schwartz worries that Pennsylvania isn’t keeping up with the rest of the nation. The U.S. has a stubbornly high unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, and Pennsylvania’s is even higher, at 8.1 percent.
The candidate believes the state economy can rebound by investing in universities, hospitals and the natural gas industry.
“Jobs and economic growth are the top priorities. I do not want to see Pennsylvania not be able to take advantage of economic growth,” she said.
Schwartz claims to have “a strong knowledge of the state” and will be looking for votes in all corners of Pennsylvania.
Most of the confirmed or rumored candidates in the primary are from the eastern part of the state, meaning the winner could be the one who relates best to residents of other areas of Pennsylvania.
“I’m well known in the Southeast, but I will be out and about quite a bit in Philadelphia, the suburbs and across the state,” she said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org