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The race for Pennsylvania governor: Careful what you wish for

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG

The whispered words among Republicans are “Allyson Schwartz.” She's the congresswoman of Southeastern Pennsylvania who is one of the most prominent candidates for the Democrats' nomination for governor in 2014. Schwartz is a liberal Democrat, as are others seeking to be the Democrat to take on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. There are Republicans who say privately that Corbett, with rock-bottom polling numbers, should be donating to the Schwartz campaign.

Translation: In some GOP circles, there's a belief that contrasted with Schwartz, even the embattled Corbett would carry most of Pennsylvania beyond Philadelphia and maybe parts of its suburbs.

Why Schwartz?

Because she ran the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center in Philadelphia — a Planned Parenthood affiliate that performed abortions. Before she served in the state Senate and in Congress, Schwartz was director of the center that provided an array of women's health services.

The notion is that will outrage many people in Pennsylvania beyond Philadelphia.

But Schwartz is an experienced lawmaker and campaigner. If she emerges from a crowded Democrat field, Schwartz might be a lot tougher opponent than some Republicans envision. She'll be well funded. And you never know what might happen in a debate or on the campaign trail. Corbett has had a slew of statements portrayed by the media as gaffes.

No matter who the Democrats' nominee is, he or she will make Corbett the issue. The abortion clinic could become a footnote. Or maybe it plays bigger.

Think back to the conventional wisdom of the 2002 governor's race. Republican Mike Fisher would have a huge edge because Democrat Ed Rendell would be weakened in a Democrat primary by that man with that golden name in Pennsylvania politics, Bob Casey, son of a former governor. Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor, beat Casey 56-44 percent. Rendell came out of the primary with momentum and a battle-tested campaign operation. Fisher had coasted. Rendell beat Fisher and was re-elected four years later.

Schwartz might not win the primary. Rob McCord, the state treasurer, has won statewide twice. Tom Wolf, a York businessman and former Rendell Cabinet member, has said he'll put $10 million of his own money into the race. There are several others slugging away.

But if Schwartz does win, Republicans — and Corbett — could end up wishing she's not the challenger. Pro-choice candidates from Rendell to Barack Obama have certainly carried the state.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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