There have been strong signs over the last few months that U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz was inching toward a run for governor next year.
Schwartz hired the state Democratic Party’s finance director. Her campaign team secured website addresses that would come in handy in a run for governor. And she took the state’s Teacher of the Year — from faraway Jefferson County — to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
Last week, though, she gave the clearest indication yet that she wanted a shot at Republican Gov. Tom Corbett when she resigned as finance chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
No formal announcement is pending, but Rachel Magnuson, the congresswoman’s chief of staff, said Schwartz has received offers of support from across the state.
“She appreciates that support,” Magnuson said.
Schwartz, 64, who served in the state Senate for 14 years before joining Congress in 2005, already has a little more than $3 million in her congressional campaign account that can be used for a run for governor. In addition, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is throwing a fundraiser for her later this month at a Pittston restaurant.
Two Democrats have announced campaigns: John Hanger, former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, and Max Myers, a pastor, businessman and author from Cumberland County.
Other Democrats said to be interested in the race include state Sen. Mike Stack; former congressman Joe Sestak; State Treasurer Rob McCord; and Tom Wolf, former secretary of the state Department of Revenue.
Corbett, meanwhile, is plagued by low approval ratings in voter surveys.
If Schwartz announces a run for governor, there will be a scramble for her 13th Congressional District seat. The district is about evenly split between Philadelphia and Montgomery County. Democrats would be heavily favored to retain the seat.
Here are some of the rumored Democratic candidates for the seat: state Reps. Brendan Boyle and Mark Cohen; state Sens. Stack, Daylin Leach and LeAnna Washington; former City Controller Jonathan Saidel; Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro; and Dr. Val Arkoosh, a health care reform advocate.
Geography could play a role. No Northeast resident has served in Congress since Bob Borski retired in 2002. Meanwhile, Montgomery County is chopped up into six congressional districts. Schwartz, though, is the only Montgomery County resident in the House.
Gender could be a consideration, too. Schwartz is the only woman in Pennsylvania’s 20-person Senate and House delegation.
Cohen, who was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1974, challenged incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Josh Eilberg in the 1978 primary in the old 4th Congressional District. He announced a run for Congress in 2004 when Democratic Rep. Joe Hoeffel decided to run for Senate, but dropped out when he couldn’t raise the money to compete with Schwartz and Joe Torsella.
This year, Cohen, a Castor Gardens resident, said he’ll decide whether to run based on the money and support that materializes.
“I’m among many people taking a look at it. There are huge numbers of people interested in running. The number of potential candidates is endless,” he said.
Boyle, of Somerton, was elected to the state House in 2008, easily won re-election in 2010 and has such a solid grip on the seat that he was unopposed last year. He’d likely receive considerable union support in a bid for Congress.
“I am very, very interested and very likely to make an announcement shortly after Allyson announces her intentions,” he said.
Leach and Washington live just outside the congressional district’s boundaries, but state law does not prohibit residents from running for a House seat in another district.
Stack, of Somerton, would seem like a natural candidate. He’s been in office since 2001 and has represented more of the district than his state legislative colleagues. His grandfather served two terms in Congress in the 1930s, and he wouldn’t have to give up his seat since he’d be midway through a four-year term in 2014.
However, Stack continues to focus on a campaign for governor. He believes Schwartz is doing a good job in Congress and can best serve Pennsylvania in that role.
Stack has already battled Corbett on issues such as funding for health care and public and higher education, and he believes he’s the kind of moderate candidate who can knock off the incumbent. Schwartz, who once ran a clinic that performed abortions, is perceived by some as too liberal.
“I have the best profile to win statewide,” Stack said.
Stack stressed that the jockeying for both races has only just begun.
“Let’s just see how this process plays out,” he said.
Saidel, of Bustleton, served as city controller from 1990 to 2005. He entered the 2007 mayoral race, but exited quickly when U.S. Rep. Bob Brady announced a bid. He lost the 2010 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. Today, he works for the Center City law firm of Cohen, Placitella & Roth and is finance chairman for the Democratic City Committee.
Saidel believes it is improper to be actively campaigning for Schwartz’s seat when she hasn’t even announced she’s giving it up. He and Montgomery County Democratic Committee boss Marcel Groen were Schwartz’s co-chairmen when she first ran for Congress in 2004.
“It’s premature to be beating on a door that might not open,” he said. “We need to give her time to make a decision.”
Saidel has kind words for Shapiro, the Montgomery County commissioner, saying that he has a great future and would be a good congressman.
“If Josh decided to run, I’ll endorse Josh,” he said.
However, some party leaders unsure of Shapiro’s thinking want Saidel to keep his options open. At age 61, he wouldn’t be looking at the seat as a steppingstone, he said, giving him the ability to completely focus on helping the district.
Saidel said his favorability numbers are high in the city portion of the district, and people have asked him to consider a bid.
“I told them I would think about it,” he said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com