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Wolf's chief of staff McGinty steps down to make U.S. Senate run

| Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 4:43 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Katie McGinty resigned Wednesday as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff and is expected to announce her candidacy for U.S. Senate in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Her resignation took effect at the close of business, and she was removed from state payroll, said Wolf's spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan.

McGinty could not be reached. She has said she is pondering a run for office. She would take on Democrat Joe Sestak, a former congressman, in a bid to unseat Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley.

National Democrats are unhappy with the prospect of Sestak challenging Toomey, to whom Sestak lost in 2010, and have sought an alternative.

Wolf's office did not say who would temporarily act as chief. Capitol observers speculate that potential replacements include Mary Isenhour, Wolf's legislative liaison; his senior adviser, David Sweet; and policy director, John Hanger.

Wolf chose McGinty, his former primary challenger, to head his political action committee The Campaign for a Fresh Start and then made her his top aide in the governor's office. In naming her as his first staffer, Wolf said he liked her “broad experience in state and federal government and in the private sector.”

McGinty's tenure as chief was contentious, with the governor's office and Republican-controlled legislature battling over Wolf's first-year budget.

Despite McGinty's rocky relations with GOP leaders, her departure likely will have “very little impact” on budget negotiations, said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

“These positions were staked out through the gubernatorial campaign. It's a very conservative Legislature with a liberal governor. Changes in the chief of staff don't change the ideological makeup,” Madonna said.

Wolf vetoed a GOP-authored budget that did not raise taxes, as well as bills to sell the state liquor stores and ban pension benefits for future school and state employees.

The budget impasse is in its 23rd day.

McGinty, 52, of Philadelphia angered Republican senators in May when she spoke to the Pennsylvania Press Club, criticizing a Senate-passed pension relief bill that the House would later pass, in part. She claimed the bill provided “lavish payouts to legislators” that some senators supported when boosting pensions in 2001.

Republican leaders responded that, under the reform bill, they'd be under 401(k)-type plans if re-elected. They would pay more to keep a higher contribution rate from the state awarded in the 2001 law, they said. The House stripped the higher contribution rate from the bill.

GOP leaders suggested McGinty continued to operate in “campaign mode.”

In the 2014 governor's race that Wolf won, she finished last in a four-way primary field.

McGinty worked for Al Gore when he was a U.S. senator and in 2003, former Gov. Ed Rendell appointed her as Pennsylvania's secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, a position she held until 2008.

A lawyer, she has worked or served on boards for energy and environmental development companies. She is a former chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

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

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