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Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth announces run for governor

Wes Venteicher
| Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, 3:33 p.m.
Laura Ellsworth
Laura Ellsworth

Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth announced Tuesday she is running for governor, vying with at least two other Republicans who have announced their candidacies.

Ellsworth, 59, is a partner at law firm Jones Day. She enters the race against state Sen. Scott Wagner, a businessman from York County, and Paul Mango, a former health care consultant from Pittsburgh.

Like them, Ellsworth is casting herself as a political outsider. In an interview, she criticized the “paralysis” and “inability to get things done” in Harrisburg, where a protracted budget battle continues.

“There is so much talk and so little action,” she said.

She said she decided to enter the race after extensive talks with residents around the state. Based on those talks, she said, she will make job creation a central focus of her campaign.

She said creating more jobs would involve bringing in outside companies and working with businesses already here who are “struggling upstream against so much regulation and so little coherent planning or thought about what we want the state to be 15 years from now.”

Political analysts in the state have said the governor's election will test whether Pennsylvania voters still favor outsider-type candidates like Trump or whether low approval ratings for Trump will push voters toward more conventional candidates.

When asked about Trump, Ellsworth said she intends to base her political positions on what she learns from voters.

“I have always been a champion of people making up their own minds,” she said. “Hearing things first hand, thinking about them independently, not being told what to do by anybody, and then assessing what is best for them and their family.”

Her campaign manager is Mike Lukach, who was state director in Minnesota and Colorado of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and was a consultant for Scott Walker's presidential campaign before that, according to online politics tracker Ballotpedia. Before that, he worked on the campaigns of Republican candidates for U.S. House of Representatives seats, according to the site.

A lawyer of 33 years, Ellsworth is now partner-in-charge of the international firm's community service initiatives, according to her bio.

She hasn't run for office, but former Gov. Tom Corbett appointed her to the boards of the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education, the Pennsylvania Council on Privatization and Innovation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, according to the bio.

House Speaker Mike Turzai has said he is interested in running but has not announced a candidacy. He posted sleekly produced videos about Pennsylvania issues to his Facebook page last week.

No Democrats have announced challenges to incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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