Another Democrat enters race for Pennsylvania governor

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Lured by Gov. Tom Corbett's languishing poll numbers, the swelling roster of his rumored or declared challengers has reached double digits.

While supporters argue that the Republican has plenty of time to right his listing political ship before the 2014 election, survey after survey has found him with some of the weakest popularity ratings of any incumbent Pennsylvania governor. The latest Democrat to see a career opportunity in the political data is York County businessman Tom Wolf, who served a stint as revenue secretary in the Rendell administration.

Mr. Wolf accompanied the launch of his bid with a polling memo that depicted him as a competitive candidate in the likely primary field. The pollsters tested his name against seven potential contenders -- and that didn't get them all. The other announced Democrats are John Hanger, a former state secretary of environmental protection, and the Rev. Max Myers, an evangelical minister from Mechanicsburg.

Beyond them is a litany of potential candidates who are expected to make formal entries into the race in the coming months. Prominent among them are Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County and state Treasurer Rob McCord. Both are regarded as fundraising heavyweights and both have made clear their interest in the Harrisburg race. Mr. McCord, who is from Montgomery County cruised to re-election as treasurer last November. His groundwork for the governor's race was on display on the South Side last month as he stopped by to mix with the party workers in the midst of a mayoral race.

Ms. Schwartz, who handled candidate recruiting for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2012 election cycle, stepped down from the DCCC earlier this year in anticipation of the run for the Democratic nomination. A former state senator, she has served in Congress since 2005. She ran statewide once before, losing the 2000 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate to former Rep. Ron Klink, who went on to lose to Sen. Rick Santorum.

"I believe that it is inevitable that in a short amount of time we will see Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord make it official," said Jim Burn, state Democratic chairman. "And I suspect at some point we will hear from Adm. Sestak."

He referred to retired Adm. Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee who waged a close but losing campaign against Sen. Pat Toomey in 2012.

Among others eyeing the race, according to Mr. Burn, are Kathleen McGinty, another former state environmental secretary; Tom Knox, a Philadelphia businessman who worked in the administration of Ed Rendell when he was mayor of Philadelphia before becoming governor; Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski; state Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia; and state Rep. Scott Conklin of Centre County, who as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor was Dan Onorato's running mate in the face of the 2010 Republican landslide that swept Mr. Corbett into office.

Mr. Corbett's fortunes looked much better then than they do now. But he has pointed out that some of his recent predecessors, including Mr. Rendell, a Democrat, and Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, also faced daunting poll numbers early in their first terms, before winning re-election easily.

Mr. Burn rejected those comparisons. "This field, this long list of Democrats -- any of whom, if the race were today, could beat Tom Corbett -- is just an affirmation of how unpopular he is and how disconnected he is."

And Mr. Corbett faces incoming fire from the right as well as from the left. Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor, who lost to him in the 2004 GOP primary for attorney general, an office Mr. Corbett went on to win, has said he is considering a challenge to his former opponent.

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Politics editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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