Rendell lengthens fund-raising lead

Also ahead of GOP's Swann in new poll

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Lengthening the fund-raising lead he has maintained throughout the campaign, Gov. Ed Rendell more than doubled the receipts of his challenger, Lynn Swann, during the latest reporting period. That left him with a 4-to-1 advantage in cash on hand, $13.8 million to the Republican's $3.25 million.

The contribution reports were filed the same day that a new poll showed Mr. Rendell with a nine-point lead over the former Steelers wide receiver and the day after the Legislature gave its long-delayed approval to a property tax relief bill that is certain to play a central role in the Democrat's campaign commercials in the months to come.

Mr. Swann has dismissed the measure as "half a Band-Aid." Whatever the merits of that argument, Mr. Rendell figures to be able to put more money and television ratings points behind his characterization of the bill as the state's first meaningful property tax relief in decades.

The Rendell campaign raised more than $2.5 million during the post-primary reporting period that ended June 5. Mr. Swann, who had nearly matched the incumbent's fund raising in the previous month, collected $1.16 million.

Mr. Rendell's large cash advantage came despite the fact that his campaign has already spent millions in an aggressive, early barrage of television commercials. The Swann campaign has yet to hit the airwaves. Mr. Swann's running mate, Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Matthews, told the Republican state committee this month that the campaign's target for its television debut was mid-August.

The latest public survey of the race, conducted by the consulting firm Strategic Vision, showed Mr. Rendell with support of 49 percent of those surveyed, followed by Mr. Swann's 38 percent, 11 percent undecided and 2 percent for Russ Diamond, a political activist who is trying to get on the ballot as an independent.

In the same survey, taken from June 9-11 among 1,200 likely voters, Democratic state Treasurer Bob Casey led U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., 49 percent to 40 percent with the balance undecided.

All of the major party candidates fared better than President Bush. His job approval rating among Pennsylvania voters was an anemic 24 percent. Even the Pennsylvania Legislature, buffeted by the yearlong revolt against a since-rescinded state pay raise, had a higher approval rating than the president -- 25 percent.

There was a glimmer of good news for Mr. Swann in the poll findings. His personal favorability rating was stronger than Mr. Rendell's. Fifty percent of the respondents said they had a favorable view of the Republican, with 37 percent unfavorable and the rest undecided. Mr. Rendell had a lower favorable number, 46 percent, and a higher unfavorable, 40 percent.

Mr. Rendell's largest single contribution in the report filed yesterday was the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which gave $235,000 to his campaign. The Democratic Governors Association, which had already contributed $400,000 to Mr. Rendell, gave another $190,000 in the post-primary period. Among the incumbent's other larger contributors was Ira J. Gumberg of the Pittsburgh development firm J.J. Gumberg, who gave $50,000.

Mr. Swann's largest contributor was Samuel Black, an insurance executive from Erie, at $200,000. His other larger donors included Bryn Mawr, Pa., philanthropist John Templeton, $60,000; Tampa, Fla., businessman J. David Ewing, $55,912; and A. Ross Myers, CEO of American Infrastructure Co. of Worcester, Pa., $50,000.


Politics Editor James O'Toole can be reached at jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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