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GOP gubernatorial hopeful Laura Ellsworth vows to bring civility and reform to state government

Wes Venteicher
| Thursday, March 8, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Laura Ellsworth speaks at a campaign rally at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh on March 8, 2018.
Wes Venteicher | Tribune-Review
Republican gubernatorial candidate Laura Ellsworth speaks at a campaign rally at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh on March 8, 2018.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Laura Ellsworth cast herself Thursday night at a rally in Pittsburgh as a candidate who would bring civility and reform to state government if elected.

Ellsworth, 59, of Sewickley, a partner with Pittsburgh law firm Jones Day, faces primary opponents Scott Wagner, 62, of York and Paul Mango, 59, of Pine, who have been swapping barbs in recent weeks over property taxes, abortion and LGBT protections.

The primary election is May 15.

“It is time to stop the posturing, it is time to stop the name-calling and time to start focusing on the people of Pennsylvania,” Ellsworth told a crowd inside the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

She said after the speech that she was referring to “everybody in the political sphere,” saying people she talks to on the campaign trail tell her they are “sick to death of the political fighting that's going on.”

In a speech for around 250 people that touched on Pennsylvania's history, Allegheny County's revitalization and the benefits of bringing the private sector into discussions on governance, she laid out reforms she said she would support.

She said she would favor a measure to withhold pay from legislators and the executive branch if budgets are not completed on time. She would work to reduce the size of the legislature, impose term limits and convert the General Assembly to a part-time legislature.

Most of those acts require legislation, but Ellsworth said she would also support a limited constitutional convention in the state to weigh some of the changes.

“It is very unlikely that the legislature will reform itself,” she said.

She criticized the General Assembly for the revenue-raising elements in the budget bill it passed for this year. She stated her opposition to marijuana legalization.

“We don't want to be a state that stands on the back of hoping that more of our citizens are drinking and smoking and gambling — and smoking pot is right behind it. We are so much better than that,” she said.

Mango, a retired health care consultant, has attacked Wagner, a state senator and business owner, for a bill Wagner supports that would provide anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from being denied housing or employment due to their sexual identity.

Ellsworth said Thursday she supports those protections.

She repeated a statement that she would support a bipartisan committee to draw congressional district boundaries rather than leaving it to legislators. She added Thursday that she didn't support the state Supreme Court's drawing of a congressional map after the court ruled the existing district boundaries were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans.

“Regardless of what party you think is right and wrong on this, I think it's a mess,” she said.

Ellsworth has trailed the other two candidates in fundraising and in endorsements from party leaders, which she has said she doesn't want. The state GOP has endorsed Wagner, who has led in fundraising.

She said people are tired of political attack ads on TV and will support her.

“Those people are ready for change, and there are more of them than there are people who into politics as they have been done,” she said.

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

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