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Fundraising a hard slog as large field swarms Corbett in governor race

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 11:51 p.m.

Nothing makes raising cash easier for politicians than knowing how the competition is doing.

“Unfortunately for Democrats running for their party's nomination in Pennsylvania, that information isn't available until the end of January,” said Larry Ceisler, a Democratic media consultant based in Philadelphia.

That has engendered uncertainty among typical political donors from businesses, unions and Super PACs, Ceisler said.

“If I had a buck for everyone who has asked me who is ahead, or who could pull this off, I'd be rich,” he said of the Democratic race for governor.

Though many analysts believe Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is vulnerable in his re-election bid, Pennsylvania hasn't had a competitive race against an incumbent governor in recent years, Ceisler said. This time, so many Democratic potential challengers are lining up that “no one knows who to give to, or who is really ahead.”

None of the campaign staffs would talk about fundraising with the Tribune-Review on Monday.

Among announced Democrats are U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County, state Treasurer Rob McCord of Bryn Mawr, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, former Department of Environmental Protection secretaries John Hanger and Katie McGinty, and former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf.

The latest independent poll, conducted at the beginning of October by Mercyhurst University, showed 40 percent of voters would support an unnamed Democrat in the gubernatorial race and 29 percent would vote for Corbett. Sixteen percent said they aren't sure who they support, and 10 percent said “someone else.”

Keystone College professor Jeff Brauer said that, despite Corbett's unpopularity in recent polls, having so many Democrats potentially running makes it difficult for any of them to attract big donations.

“That is likely resulting in tepid giving,” he said.

In Pennsylvania, candidates for governor do not need to file campaign finance reports until the last day in January of the election year, Brauer said, unlike those in federal races who file quarterly reports.

“So everything they have raised through the end of 2013 won't be known until, essentially, February of 2014,” he said.

Last week, political observers noted that Schwartz's campaign fundraiser stepped aside, into an advisory role, to be replaced by a Washington-based finance director. Schwartz led the race among the Democrats by double digits in polling during summer months.

The change on her campaign could indicate she isn't raising the money she wants, Brauer said.

“If major donors are on the sidelines, you begin to wonder if she has statewide appeal,” he said. “Even though Corbett is vulnerable, if, as the front-runner, she is not raising money, perhaps she is not a formidable candidate.

“People do see her as this ‘Philly liberal' who is too connected to Washington, with Obama, the Affordable Care Act and against energy.” That image may play well in Washington or Philadelphia, Brauer said, “but not statewide in Pennsylvania.”

“The bottom line is, people are operating in a vacuum,” said David Urban, a Washington-based Republican strategist who has advised on several statewide races for Congress. “There is a lot of competition on that side of the aisle, and no one knows if anyone is giving. Until someone breaks out (into the lead), I think you will see a lot of people sitting on their hands.”

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at szito@tribweb.com.

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