As Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania lays the groundwork for a potential gubernatorial bid in 2014, the Democrat could leave the House Democrats’ campaign committee—where she serves as finance chair—in a pinch.
Schwartz was named to the top fundraising post for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in December. It’s a key job—nearly $184 million in donations came through the DCCC’s doors in the 2012 cycle—ahead of what’s expected to be another tough midterm election.
But Schwartz appears to have other political ambitions on her mind. In recent weeks, the chatter has grown loud that she will run for Pennsylvania governor next year and thus depart Congress. Earlier this month, one of her political advisers, Neil Deegan, registered a handful of potential gubernatorial domain names, including schwartzforgovernor.com, allyson2014.com, allysonforpa.com, and allysonforgovernor.com. Her advisers are doing little to tamp down the speculation.
“The congresswoman is hearing from a lot of people in Pennsylvania that are excited about a potential candidacy by her and what her sort of experience and leadership would mean for the citizens of Pennsylvania should she run for governor,” said Rachel Magnuson, Schwartz’s chief of staff.
It seems unlikely that Schwartz could serve as both House Democrats’ fundraiser-in-chief and the party’s standard-bearer in a big-state, big-money gubernatorial race. But as Schwartz explores a challenge to Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, she is remaining in her DCCC post. And, from Schwartz’s perspective, why not? The DCCC finance position opens up a national network of potential new contributors to her. She could also opt to skip the governor’s race, though that appears unlikely at the moment.
The DCCC declined to answer specific questions about Schwartz’s future role or her potential gubernatorial bid. DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in an e-mail only that “Representative Schwartz is a leader in our caucus, and we are deeply appreciative of her efforts to elect more Democrats and turn back the Tea Party majority in the House.”
The DCCC remains in debt from the 2012 elections. At the end of the most recent reporting period, the committee owed $12.6 million and had $4.6 million cash-on-hand. (The National Republican Congressional Committee also remains in the red.)
Even as the minority party, the House Democrats’ campaign arm consistently outraised the NRCC last cycle. It was an important advantage as independent, Republican-aligned groups poured millions into competitive House seats. In announcing Schwartz’s appointment in December, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said he was looking “forward to working with her to make sure we have the resources to compete and win in 2014.”
For now, she remains one of four national chairs of the DCCC. She replaced Rep. Joe Crowley of New York as the DCCC’s finance chair; Crowley has stayed on in a new post of D.C. finance chair, raising money from Washington-based interests.
Schwartz’s gubernatorial ambitions didn’t appear to hurt the DCCC’s fundraising haul in January, as the committee raised $6.1 million, more than the $4.4 million the NRCC took in. But her focus on Pennsylvania state politics is only expected to grow in the coming months.
“Right now, the congresswoman is focused on what are her priorities, both politically and policy-wise in Congress, and nothing has changed as of today,” Magnuson said. She cited the coming congressional budget battles—Schwartz is a member of the Ways and Means Committee—among the policy issues garnering Schwartz’s attention.
Schwartz has little incentive to leave the DCCC post soon. She could leave party leaders—and the DCCC’s fundraising operation—in limbo for months. In the last Pennsylvania’s governor’s race, in 2010, the eventual Republican and Democratic nominees didn’t formally announce their bids until September and October 2009, respectively.
One advantage that Schwartz has is that she doesn’t need to get started explicitly raising money for a gubernatorial bid yet. Her congressional campaign treasury—$3 million and counting—can be transferred under Pennsylvania law to a future governor’s race. That law also means that Schwartz can continue to stock her congressional account with new money, even if she plans to use it later for a statewide run.
This article appears in the Feb. 21, 2013, edition of National Journal Daily.