Update: Asked about the 80% rumor at Monday’s gun safety event with VP Joe Biden, Schwartz said, “That’s pretty accurate.”
Hershey — “Free drink tickets, courtesy of Jim Burn and Allyson Schwartz.”
So said a Schwartz campaign staffer to every Democrat who entered a Friday night reception at the party’s winter state committee.
It was just one sign that the Montgomery County Congresswoman, who has floated her name as a possible candidate for Governor in 2014, is taking the race a lot more seriously.
The Schwartz for Guv movement went from insider chatter to a full court press Friday.
While Schwartz was absent from the meeting, her staff – and supporters – were prevalent. Her co-sponsorship of the desserts and drinks event with Pa. Dems Chair Jim Burn was a last minute addition to the schedule.
“She’s 80% of the way in,” said Marcel Groen, the chair of the Democratic party in Schwartz’s home county. He’s one of the most influential party leaders in Pa.
“This is not a joke. She’s a serious person with three million bucks,” said another top Democrat. Schwartz is a prolific fundraiser and has $3.11 million on hand in her congressional campaign. Pa. state campaign finance laws would allow her to transfer 100% of the money into a gubernatorial bid.
Schwartz floated the idea of a bid back in December, but after being named the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Finance Chair the move seemed less likely. Additionally, she’s on the rise in Democratic House politics and has been steadily moving up the ranks. She’s also been in the conversation as a possible opponent to Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016.
Half a dozen Democratic operatives confirmed that the Democratic Governors’ Association recently polled the 2014 Pa. gubernatorial race. Their findings: Schwartz is in a strong position vis-a-vis other potential candidates.
After positive and negative profiles of Schwartz and Corbett were read to respondents, according to one Democratic operative who is backing Schwartz – who said they were looking at a copy of the poll – Schwartz lead by 8 points.
With a positive profile of Schwartz and a negative one of Corbett, she lead 58 points to 31. That is “substantially” better than the next best Democrat, the operative said.
The negative profile is significant. Schwartz, who has Harrisburg experience from her years in the Pa. Senate, used to run a women’s health clinic in Philadelphia that performed abortions. But even that negative didn’t have a significant impact on her numbers, the source said.
PoliticsPA is seeking confirmation from the DGA.
That may be especially true given Corbett’s tough sledding on women’s issues and his polling gender gap.
Schwartz’s staffers at the event declined to comment. But spokeswoman Rachel Magnuson said over the phone that Schwartz was looking hard at a run.
“Across the state, individuals have been asking the Congresswoman to run against Governor Corbett. It’s something she is weighing very seriously,” she said.
The rest of the field
Her moves are being watched – closely.
Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord has been seen as a likely candidate for months. One top Democratic operative said he’s “too far in” to back out of the race. He gave two speeches Friday night, both well received.
McCord said he hasn’t made anything official – although party operatives report that he has been making calls and touring the state just as a Guv hopeful would.
He didn’t make any announcement Friday, but he told PoliticsPA, “I do think as we take a look at what’s going on with Pennsylvania economy, what’s going on with jobs. It’s really important we have a nominee with job creation experience in the private sector,” he said. McCord spent much of his career as an investor.
“I trust that if I ran I’d have abundant resources. I’m not worried about fundraising.”
He’s heard the Schwartz chatter too – and he’s not deterred.
“There’s nobody talking about getting in that I’ve heard of that would affect my choice,” he said.
“Rob McCord needs to say he’s in,” concluded one operative, if he wants to prevent Schwartz from gaining steam.
Chairman Groen also represents McCords home county. He said he didn’t think the race would make it all the way to primary day.
“If Allyson gets in, raises a bunch of money, gets a bunch of support, then Rob McCord will need to take a look around and decide how far he wants to go. If Rob McCord gets in and gets the money and support, then Allyson will need to decide.”
State Sen. Daylin Leach has made little secret of the fact that he’d like to replace Schwartz in Congress should she decide to run for Governor – though he stopped short of saying so Friday. (He’d be a strong candidate in the Dem-favoring district).
“I support Allyson for anything,” he said, moments after huddling with a Schwartz staffer. But he said that he had no inside knowledge of her decision.
Southeast Pa. committee members are torn. Schwartz and McCord have strong relationships in the region, which is the electoral base of the party.
So too does former Congressman Joe Sestak, an x-factor who has himself been making calls and has told at least some Democrats that he is likely to get in the race.
Meanwhile, two other gubernatorial hopefuls had state committee receptions planned for later Friday night.
John Hanger, the former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell, and Max Myers, a Cumberland County pastor with no political background.
And they may not be the only ones. Former Revenue Secretary and York businessman Tom Wolf said he’s likely to run.
A source close to Rendell said the Guv would kick into gear for Wolf or another candidate or two.
“If Tom Wolf or another candidate he likes gets in, he will turn on the Philadelphia spigot. He won’t turn on the Philadelphia spigot for Rob or Allyson,” said the source.
Former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Erie) and state Sen. Mike Stack (D-Phila) were also working the room on Friday.
Dahlkemper said she’s “still exploring” the possibility of a run.
PoliticsPA changed the headline of this article from “exclusive” to “breaking” because Capitolwire reported that Schwartz was 80% likely to run a bit earlier – although the story did not make mention of the DGA poll.