The Democratic field for governor was pared to seven Monday as Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski dropped his candidacy while endorsing state Treasurer Rob McCord.
Mr. Pawlowski, just re-elected to his third term with the nominations of both major parties, said the demands of fundraising and campaigning took too much time away from his day job.
"Every time I sat down to make fundraising calls, another issue with the City would come up," he said in a statement issued by his campaign office. "My time and focus needs to be concentrated on the continued revitalization of Allentown."
Mr. Pawlowski clearly had a tough time fundraising, complaining while still a candidate that many traditional Democratic donors were "sitting on the sidelines."
Mr. Pawlowski said he was now backing Mr. McCord because he sees the treasurer as his party's best bet to defeat Gov. Tom Corbett.
Of his choice to support Mr. McCord, Mr. Pawlowski said, "We have had some very good talks, and I believe this is the person who can lead Pennsylvania to a new and brighter future."
The decision was announced as Mr. Corbett was poised to deliver his 2014 budget address, one that supporters hoped would reverse a daunting trend of poll results that led the Washington Post to proclaim him the incumbent governor with the greatest chance of being defeated. Mr. Corbett was nonetheless unanimously endorsed by the Republican State Committee over the weekend.
The Democratic State Committee will meet this weekend with its endorsement of any remaining contender unlikely. To win the official party backing, the committee's rules demand that a candidate receive a supermajority of 66 percent within two votes. Otherwise, there will be an open primary. Given the big field that includes several credible candidates, it seemed unlikely that anyone would cross the 66 percent threshold.
So far, Mr. McCord and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, R-Montgomery County, have received the lion's share of the large union and personal endorsements in the race. Tom Wolf, a wealthy York County businessman and former state revenue secretary, has raised the most money on the Democratic side, most of it his own. That allowed him to become the first candidate to air network television ads. Katie McGinty, a former state environmental secretary, has also paid for a more modest purchase of ads on cable television.
"It's going to be very difficult in my opinion for either a governor or a lieutenant governor candidate to get to two-thirds," said party chairman Jim Burn.
That was the case the last time the Democrats considered their candidates for governor, in the winter meeting before the 2010 primary won by former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. Former state Auditor General Jack Wagner led the balloting in that endorsement vote, but failed to attain the required 66 percent.
Mr. Wagner said several times last year that he was still considering another run for governor. He has been reticent on the subject in recent weeks and was not immediately available for comment Monday. As each day passes, the logistical hurdles to mounting a last-minute candidacy become more formidable, so it would be a surprise if the former auditor general would decide to enter at this relatively late date.
In 2002, former Gov. Ed Rendell withdrew his name from contention in the party vote, deferring to Sen. Bob Casey's strength with the party insiders. In the ensuing primary, however, Democratic voters gave Mr. Rendell a relatively easy victory despite the party support for his rival.
Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562. First Published February 3, 2014 11:53 AM