Laura Ellsworth, a businesswoman from the Pittsburgh suburbs, is reportedly strongly considering a run for Governor as a Republican in 2018, but her donations to Democrats could pose an issue with Republican primary voters.
Ellsworth donated at least $11,550 to Democratic candidates since 2007. During this time, Ellsworth gave significantly more to Republican candidates and causes, including over $30,700 to Republican candidates for federal office since 2007 and over $13,000 to Republican state candidates since 2013.
As the primary gets closer and the field of candidates and potential candidates gets clearer, operatives are actively looking into the background of the candidates and potential candidates for anything they can use to bracket and frame other candidates.
According to longtime Republican State Party member and Republican strategist Charlie Gerow, the donations to Democratic candidates will likely be a “difficult hurdle with State Party members.”
“State Party members will view multiple contributions as a problem, while one or two can be explained away,” Gerow said.
“Everyone who knows anything about politics or about me knows that I’m a Republican. I’ve fought alongside, volunteered for, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Republican candidates and causes,” Ellsworth said in an email to PoliticsPA.
How much the donations will affect party members should Ellsworth decide to enter the race will likely depend on the story she can tell. President Trump was able to quiet critics of his donations to Democratic candidates explaining that as a businessman he had responsibilities to his businesses to give money to Democrats.
“Like Donald Trump, I was the head of a major business and, like him, I have written checks to Democrats and Republicans over the years; as President Trump said, it was part of doing business. Republican party members understand that business reality,” Ellsworth said.
Ellsworth’s federal donations will likely be the biggest issue with State Party members, especially her donations to former President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Ellsworth gave $1,000 to Clinton in 2015, and $2,050 to Obama in during the 2007-2008 cycle.
How effective Ellsworth deals with the donations will say a lot about her campaign if she enters the race.
“She has a good story. She is a very articulate woman. A female candidate has a good chance in any race,” Gerow said.
Ellsworth went on the offensive against people who might want to make the donations an issue if she enters the race.
“[State Party members] also understand that voters are fed up with people who think that the checks you write are more important than the Republican ideas and leadership you bring to the table. The candidate who pitched you this story apparently is one of them, and the fact it was done before I even enter the race tells me that person is afraid of what a new candidate might bring to the table for the Republican voters of Pennsylvania,” Ellsworth said.