Is a Sestak push for Pennsylvania governor at hand?

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Will retired Adm. Joe Sestak join the lengthening parade of Democrats eager to take on Gov. Tom Corbett?

He's not saying. But the healthy fundraising numbers he put up for the first quarter of the year fueled the speculation that the former congressman and failed Democratic Senate candidate may be considering another statewide race.

Mr. Sestak represented a Delaware County congressional district before running for the Senate against the GOP tide of 2010. He is currently spending his time teaching at Carnegie Mellon University and Cheyney University, outside of Philadelphia. His CMU classes are "Ethical Leadership" and "Restoring the American Dream and its Political Platform," titles that sound like they could have come from an actual political platform rather than a course catalogue.

Mr. Sestak's new Federal Election Commission filing shows that he raised $460,250 in the first three months of 2013. To put that in perspective, that's just a little less than the $544,335 Sen. Pat Toomey, the man who defeated him in 2010, pulled in the same period. Among the incumbent U.S. House members in the state's delegation, only Rep. William Shuster, R-Bedford, with $496,212, raised more than Mr. Sestak.

His first quarter contribution total tops the $416,406 Rep. Allyson Schwartz, an already-declared candidate for governor, pulled in. But in terms of total cash, Ms. Schwartz is well ahead of her neighbor from the Philadelphia suburbs. During the same reporting period, the Montgomery County lawmaker transferred $3.1 million to a new campaign account established for the gubernatorial race.

Keegan Gibson of PoliticsPa has pointed out that Mr. Sestak changed the name of his committee, from "Sestak for Senate," to "Friends of Joe Sestak." It remains a federal campaign committee, however, meaning that it must abide by the federal contribution limit of $5,200 for individuals. If Mr. Sestak were to form a committee under the more lax state regulations, he would be able to accept unlimited contributions.

Mr. Sestak's plans remain unclear. He has been an occasional presence on cable news outlets, commenting on national and international issues, but he has typically declined interviews with Pennsylvania reporters. Through a spokesman, Edwin Wee, he did so again Tuesday. Mr. Wee said he's still making his decision on whether to run for office.

"Right now, he's still making his decision and he wants to make sure it's right," Mr. Wee said.

If he were to challenge Mr. Corbett, he would have plenty of company. State Treasurer Rob McCord is also considered a likely candidate, and one that would have little trouble raising money.

Several former Rendell Cabinet officials are also in the hunt. Tom Wolf, a York County businessman and former revenue secretary, launched his bid earlier this month with the declaration that he was willing to spend millions of his own money on the race. Kathleen McGinty and John Hanger, both former chiefs of the state's environmental enforcement, are also in the race. Other Democrats reportedly eyeing the competition include Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, state Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia and state Rep. Scott Conklin of Centre County.

electionspa - state

Politics editor James O'Toole: or 412-263-1562.


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