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Gubernatorial candidate McGinty posts strong fundraising total

| Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 8:03 a.m.
Katie McGinty was Department of Environmental Protection secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell and an environmental adviser in the White House for former President Bill Clinton.

HARRISBURG — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty has raised $2.4 million for her campaign, which political analysts say signals viability in a race with seven other candidates, three of whom have larger campaign accounts.

Her campaign released the fundraising figure on Friday.

Analysts had viewed McGinty as a potential competitor only if she has enough money to compete with perceived front-runner U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Treasurer Rob McCord and York County millionaire Tom Wolf in the May 20 primary. The winner likely would face Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of Shaler in November.

“It's a sign to a lot of people (that) she is viable,” said Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia public relations strategist and Washington County native. “Katie McGinty has impressed almost everyone she has met. (Democratic activists) know she has the substance and charisma, and she's what a lot of people want in a Democratic nominee. But the question is whether she'd have money.”

McGinty, of Chester County, was Department of Environmental Protection secretary under ex-Gov. Ed Rendell. She was an environmental adviser at the White House for former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

Friday is the deadline to file expense reports, but campaigns have dribbled out totals over the past few weeks.

Wolf donated $10 million of his money and raised more than $3 million. McCord, of Montgomery County, raised $6.6 million, including $1.7 million of his own and $1.3 million from his 2012 treasurer's campaign. Schwartz, also of Montgomery County, raised $6.5 million, including about $3 million from her congressional campaign.

Money is critical in statewide races for TV and radio advertising and targeted mailings to voters. It pays for professional campaign staffs and consultants, polls, travel and phone banks.

G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, said he believes it will take $5 million through the primary to keep a candidate competitive. It may require $10 million or more to win, he said.

Most of the Democratic candidates take part in a debate Friday night in Harrisburg on justice issues before the Pennsylvania Association for Justice. They square off in a debate Sunday at Carnegie Mellon University sponsored by Pittsburgh Democratic groups.

“We have always expected to be outspent by longtime elected officials like Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord, and Tom Wolf's megamillions,” said Mike Mikus, McGinty's campaign manager. “But with Katie we have the best candidate, the strongest message, policy proposals … and the financial resources” to win, he said.

McGinty needs a lot more to compete, Ceisler said, but the test with Monday's filing deadline is “showing that you are credible.”

“Now can she go back to those people and grow and expand their financial support? I always thought $2 million was enough to get you to the table by the end of January,” Ceisler said.

Steve Peterson, a political science profssor at Penn State University's Harrisburg campus, said McGinty “has to continue hustling for finances.”

McGinty's campaign stated that donors gave $2 million of her total in the six months since she converted an exploratory committee to an active campaign account for the governor's race.

Peterson believes McGinty's fundraising showing places her among the top tier candidates.

“I would think that the winner would emerge from these four candidates, but politics isn't always predictable,” Peterson said.

Money is “a factor” but not the only one, said Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, who is backing Wolf. “You put the four (Schwartz, McCord, Wolf, McGinty) in a (top) category and the issue becomes who has the best message? That's Tom Wolf.” It's a message of turning the state's economy around, Evans said.

Other candidates are Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz and Mechanicsburg pastor Max Myers.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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