WASHINGTON – Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski launched a run for U.S. Senate Friday, playing up the "story" he has to tell from his years leading Pennsylvania's third-largest city.

The announcement was made on Facebook and social media, and via a press release e-mailed to reporters.

"I look forward to listening to voters and sharing with them the story of success we've had in Allentown in solving real problems for real people," Pawlowski said in his release. "We didn't wait on others to solve the problems for us. We rolled up our sleeves and made things happen."

His entry sets up a Democratic primary against former Delaware County Congressman Joe Sestak in a race that Democrats see as crucial to its chances of taking back the Senate in 2016. In what is expected to be one of the most closely contested Senate campaigns in the country, Pennsylvania Democrats hope a jolt from the presidential race will help them oust Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) – though they are unsettled about whom their candidate will be. Toomey lives just outside s Allentown.

Others Democrats could still enter the race.

Pawlowski used the word "story" four times in the opening seven paragraphs of his announcement, using the phrase to describe the arc of his work in Allentown. The city, he said, was struggling when he took over, but after a decade under his watch has attracted more than $1 billion in new development and more than 1,000 new jobs. Crime has fallen and a budget deficit has turned into a surplus, his release said, "without  a single increase in the city's real estate tax rate" during the past 10 years.

"I know I have a great story to tell the voters about myself and the work I have done to help make Allentown's incredible turnaround possible," Pawlowski said in his release.

Pawlowski ran for governor last year, but quickly dropped out of the Democratic primary after struggling to raise money, leading to questions about how he will fare in another expensive statewide race.

Once his announcement events are done, Pawlowski's release said, "I intend to spend the majority of my time calling donors and doing the work required to assemble the resources necessary to compete and win."

In a letter to supporters he wrote that he had assembled a team of consultants and aides "with national experience that have collectively won dozens of races" – perhaps in an attempt to answer those who question whether he can mount a credible challenge, and perhaps in a jab at Sestak, who relies largely on family and people close to him for advice, rather than seasoned political professionals.

Pawlowski's web site went up with a slick introductory video in which the mayor talks about his family's roots in Chicago, running a Polish restaurant.

"They were a typical blue collar Chicago family and they really instilled in me a lot of values that I still carry on to this day," Pawlowski said. The video later says Pawlowski once worked as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago – a phrase often used to describe President Obama beginnings.

Sestak, who narrowly lost to Toomey in 2010, has been traveling the state for years in anticipation of another run. He launched his campaign in March and has a big head start in fundraising.

As the party establishment waits for the field to settle, a number of other Democrats have also been said to be considering a run, including Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, former Congressman Chris Carney and Philadelphia state Sen. Vincent Hughes.

In an e-mail, Toomey campaign manager Peter Towey wrote "this is just another indication of how uninspiring Joe Sestaks candidacy is." Sestak has said that anyone who wants to enter, should do so.

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