HARRISBURG – U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz said Friday she is preparing to set up a state fundraising committee as her first official step toward a likely 2014 campaign for Pennsylvania governor.
The fifth-term Democratic congresswoman stopped short of declaring her candidacy, but said she will file papers to create a political-action committee “in the next few weeks or a month or so.”
“I do intend to run for governor in 2014,” Schwartz told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Schwartz, 64, is the only woman in what could be a crowded fight for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who is battling anemic job-approval ratings in independent polls as he prepares to launch an expected re-election bid.
Former state environmental protection chief John Hanger declared his candidacy in November. Prospective candidates include former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak and state Treasurer Rob McCord, who like Schwartz both hail from the heavily Democratic Philadelphia region, and former state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf of York County.
“We have a bench of major league Democrats … and any single one of them could beat Tom Corbett,” Jim Burn, chairman of the state Democratic Party said Friday.
Burn said the large field of potential candidates is “a good dynamic to have in March the year before the (May 2014) primary,” but that he hopes a consensus candidate will emerge later this year so the party can avoid a divisive nomination fight.
“Let’s see where this takes us in the next several months,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey plans to hold a March 22 fundraiser for Schwartz in northeastern Pennsylvania, although Schwartz said he has not endorsed her for governor.
Casey’s spokeswoman, April Mellody, said the fundraiser keeps a promise that he made to Schwartz last year, before she expressed interest in a gubernatorial bid.
Schwartz, known for her prowess in raising campaign cash, stepped down this week as chief fundraiser of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after two months in the time-consuming job. That would allow her to concentrate on her own political future and her current duties as a member of the Ways and Means Committee and the Budget Committee.
“I want to be very engaged in the (congressional) debates this year,” she said.
Schwartz’s federal campaign committee has about $3 million that can be transferred to a state campaign committee.
“It’s a good starting point but it’s going to be an expensive race,” she said.
Schwartz, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown, served 14 years in the Pennsylvania Senate before she was elected to the U.S. House in 2004.