Jack Wagner pulls out of governor's race

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Former Auditor General Jack Wagner dropped his late-starting quest for the Democratic nomination for governor Wednesday, acknowledging that he hadn't been able to raise enough money to be competitive in the multi-candidate field.

Mr. Wagner said he wasn't ready to endorse any of his recent rivals, while saying that he was keeping all professional options on the table, including the possibility of another run for office.

His departure leaves four Democrats vying for the right to take on Gov. Tom Corbett -- York businessman Tom Wolf; U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, state Treasurer Rob McCord, and Katie McGinty, a former state secretary of environmental protection.

Mr. Wagner's departure doesn't appear likely to have a major impact among the remaining contenders. His late entry into the Democratic contest seemed to rest on the hope that as the only western candidate in the field, he could grab the nomination in the multi-candidate field. But he failed to gain any real traction as better-funded rivals began to take to the airwaves.

Several prominent Western Pennsylvania politicians showed they were less concerned about geographic affinity a few weeks ago as they assembled for a group endorsement of Mr. Wolf, the free-spending York businessman.

Mr. Wagner said he had raised fewer than $100,000 -- a rounding error by the standards of the multi-million war chests of the rest of a field led, financially, and in recent polls, by Mr. Wolf, who has pledged to spend $10 million of his own money on the race.

"I was glad I got into the race even for a short period of time," said Mr. Wagner, a veteran Beechview Democrat who declared his candidacy on the eve of the February filing deadline.

"I really believe I had a message for Pennsylvania of being a moderate Democrat. ... I'm passionate about the issues," he added.

Mr. Wagner said he believed he had added to the campaign debate on issues including charter school funding, shrinking the size of the Legislature and the need for a state Constitutional convention to promote those and other changes.

The former auditor general said he remained proud of his extensive public record, and the fact that he had never lost a general election during a career that included stints as a Pittsburgh city council member, council president, state senator and two terms as state auditor general.

But he wasn't able to get past the Democratic primary in his previous two bids for office. He lost the Democratic nomination for governor to former County Executive Dan Onorato in 2010. After another late-starting campaign, he was soundly defeated by Bill Peduto in the 2013 primary for Pittsburgh mayor.

He said Wednesday that it was "too early" to determine his next professional step, but added, "I certainly haven't ruled out running again for public office. ... I believe I have a great track record and I'm proud of that."

First Published March 26, 2014 4:37 PM

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