McCord defends single-mom message in Pa. campaign

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HARRISBURG – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rob McCord insisted Monday that he has not ignored his stepfather’s role in raising him but rather he is emphasizing that being raised for a time by a single mother familiarized him with financial insecurity.


McCord was responding to questions on WITF-FM’s show “Smart Talk” about a stepbrother’s criticism that his campaign ads and website are concealing his mother’s remarriage for political convenience.


McCord stressed he and his mother, Joan, endured a difficult period after she got divorced when he was 4. She then married Carl Silver in 1971, according to her Philadelphia Inquirer obituary, when McCord would have been 11 or 12. In an essay published in 2002, Joan McCord said the marriage was in 1970.


The two met while they were Drexel University professors. Silver died in 1998. In his obituary in the Inquirer, McCord lauded Silver’s abilities as a teacher and storyteller and called him “Dad.”


On Monday, McCord said he often speaks glowingly of Silver. But he also stressed that people worry about slipping into poverty and that, as governor, he would address it.


“I got to see when I was younger that there are people who just work their tails off, are not all about money, but just want to be secure and they can get tossed right out of the middle class,” McCord said. “And there’s a lot of fear out there and unfortunately too much of it is realistic.”


McCord also said that, in recounting his life, he has been clear that circumstances improved dramatically after moving from California to Pennsylvania.


“I’ve said on the record many times: By the time I was 11, I was lucky. By the time I was 15, I was fantastic, but ... try telling your whole life in 60 seconds,” McCord said.


He attended some of the state’s best public schools in Lower Merion, a Philadelphia suburb. He became high school student body president and captain of the soccer team, he said, and received substantial financial aid to attend Harvard University.


Still, McCord did not say why he had not mentioned his stepfather in campaign materials. In one campaign TV ad, he says, “My mom and dad split up when I was 4. We didn’t eat meat, you know, when I was age 4 to 10, not for health reasons but because we couldn’t afford it.”


McCord’s stepbrother, Daniel Silver, said his father helped Rob McCord with homework, took him to Philadelphia Eagles games, loaned him a car for prom and otherwise raised him as his own son.


“He’s making choices and he’s making a choice to go with the single-mom story because it’s a branding thing and that to me is disrespectful of my dad and I spoke up about it,” Daniel Silver told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday.


McCord’s mother received a doctorate in sociology from Stanford University in 1968 and, after moving to Pennsylvania that year to teach at Drexel, rose to become a distinguished criminologist.


In the 2002 essay, she wrote that she divorced her first husband, William McCord, a Stanford professor, after he began drinking and became abusive. Around that time, in 1963, she wrote, the Stanford philosophy department withdrew a fellowship that was her financial support.


“It was just a horribly painful period,” Rob McCord said Monday.


A lean year followed, Joan McCord wrote, in which she dropped her studies and took on several jobs — tutoring kids and coaching tennis among them — before she obtained a three-year fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health to finish her graduate work.


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