Schwartz victory in Pa gov top goal for Emily's List

Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock is bullish on Allyson Schwartz’s chances of becoming the first woman elected governor of Pennsylvania.

“We see it as one of the very best opportunities in the country to elect a strong Democratic woman over an incumbent conservative Republican, one of a handful,” Schriock said in an interview Tuesday.

Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily's List

Emily’s List, the national PAC that backs the election of Democratic women who support abortion rights, is betting heavily on Schwartz - $130,000 in the last four months of 2013 alone. There will be more, Schriock said.

Schwartz, a five-term member of the U.S. House from Montgomery County, faces six opponents in a competitive May 20 Democratic primary for the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who polls show is one of the most vulnerable incumbents.

She entered 2014 as the nominal frontrunner in the polls, with $4.6 million in cash on hand, though that total is lower than the bankrolls of state Treasurer Rob McCord and York businessman Tom Wolf, the money leader.

Some state political analysts have questioned how strong a front-runner Schwartz could be, considering that she has not pushed any of a half dozen candidates out of the race so far, but Schriock is not concerned. “When you get a governor with Corbett’s incredibly upside-down favorability ratings, everybody thinks they have a chance,” she said.

Schwartz still is in a strong position, Schriock said, with a large geographic base and a broad network of campaign contributors. “She has more donors than any of the other candidates,” Schriock said. “That’s a strong foundation; it’s where you get your volunteers for your field operation, and voters.”

Pennsylvania has for years ranked neaer the bottom among the states for the numbers of women in political office, according to Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics.

In Pennsylvania’s Eighth District, printing-business owner Shaughnessy Naughton is on the PAC’s roster of candidates to watch. Naughton is challenging the choice of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Army combat veteran Kevin Strouse, for the party’s nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R.,Pa.).

“She’s putting together a good organization,” Schriock said of Naughton. “We like her background, she’s well-connected in the district and she has passion.” Emily’s List could step in to back Naughton in the primary if the race looks winnable.

In the 13th District race to succeed Schwartz, Emily’s List will face a tough choice whether to back Dr. Val Arkoosh, a Montco anesthesiologist who has raised the most money among the four primary candidates, or Marjorie Margolies, who represented an earlier iteration of the district from 1993-95.