It’s Rob McCord’s party, an hour after the candidates forum at state committee. An elderly woman approaches the State Treasurer through the crowd. McCord abruptly shuts down a conversation with a campaign aide to greet her.
“Hi! How are you doing [Janet]? How’s your daughter? How’s the new house working out?”
This is McCord’s crowd. Since he first faced a contested primary for treasurer in 2008, he’s worked the committee members regularly. Gone to picnics in Potter County. Spoken at dinners in Crawford County. Walked in a parade in Luzerne. There are nearly 400 Democratic state committee members and he knows almost all of them by name.
And they know him.
That’s why, with members set to vote Saturday afternoon, McCord’s opponents have been working to prevent a roll call vote for the endorsement.
It’s unlikely any of the Democrats for Governor, even McCord, can achieve the steep two-thirds of the vote required to win the endorsement. But they know McCord would almost certainly demonstrate a solid lead – and enjoy the headlines that come with first place.
In the absence of an endorsement, the party defaults to an open primary. But McCord’s opponents are pushing for a vote to suspend the rules to proactively designate the race an open primary – thereby cutting of a roll call vote.
The vote to suspend the rules also requires 66% support. McCord’s opponents, most notably backers of Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz including Philadelphia party Chairman and Congressman Bob Brady and Montgomery County Chairman Marcel Groen, are pushing for the non-endorsement vote.
“It’s an easy sell for Marcel,” says one Montco state committee member who asked not to be named. “Two of the candidates live in [Montgomery] county. Another one next door. He can say ‘How can anyone ask us to choose between all these great candidates? We need to let the voters decide.’”
In the past two decades, there’s been no correlation between winning the Democratic endorsement and winning the nomination. But there are perks. An endorsed candidate gets access to the state party’s voter database as well as its bulk mail permit – things that can save a campaign tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
McCord’s surrogates are trying a different tack. They’re saying that McCord is close enough to hitting the threshold for an endorsement that it’s members’ duty to allow a vote to happen.
“I just got him 30 delegates!” said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. He dropped out of the gubernatorial contest on Monday and worked the room for McCord Friday night.
“There needs to be a vote,” Pawlowski continued, “he’s earned it.”