The two Democrats with the biggest campaign war chests started trading punches today with state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams going up with a television ad critical of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. You can see the Williams ad by clicking here. We hear the ad is running in several markets, including Pittsburgh.
Onorato, who had $6.8 million in the bank at the end of March, has been running commercials touting the economic turn-around of Allegheny County. Williams, who had $1.5 million in the bank, takes aim at that story. His new ad points out that Allegheny County's unemployment rate soared by 30 percent in the last year. Williams also knocks Onorato for his unpopular tax on alcohol drinks and other local tariffs.
Onorato spokesman Brian Herman quickly responded: "Given that Dan Onorato is running for Governor to reform the way Harrisburg does business, it's not surprising that one of the most anti-reform legislators in Harrisburg -- Tony Williams -- has started to run a negative campaign against him. In the 20 years that Williams has been in Harrisburg, he's raised his own pay twice and padded his pension by 50%. And if that wasn't bad enough, he even refused to return his pay raise after most of his colleagues listened to the voices of outraged Pennsylvanians."
After the jump, you can read more of Herman's response, along with the Williams campaign counter-response.
Herman's statement continued: "With a record like that, it's unsurprising that Williams has to resort to misleading statistics to run his negative campaign. The facts are clear that even in this national recession, Allegheny County's unemployment rate is below the state's and the nation's. And since Dan Onorato became Executive of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania's second largest county, he has balanced the budget for each of the six years he's been in office without once raising property taxes."
Mark Nevins from the Williams campaign, responded that the Onorato campaign has been able until now to "say whatever they want any time they want with reckless impunity because no one has held them accountable." Nevins said Onorato's camp is "freaking out" because Williams is now holding him accountable.
Here's the rest of the Nevins response: “They need to accept that the facts are the facts. The unemployment rate in Allegheny County has risen faster in the last year than it has in America or in Pennsylvania. Dan Onorato has raised taxes and fees in the county by millions of dollars, including the wildly controversial drink tax. And as for claims of reforming business in Harrisburg, I’m not sure they should use words they don’t understand. Accepting tens of thousands from campaign donors and dishing out millions in contracts to those donors isn’t exactly a solid platform for reform.”