With the filing of campaign finance reports by all gubernatorial candidates today, Dan Onorato strongly fortified the widespread perception that he is the front-runner in the four-way Democratic primary for the office.
The Allegheny County executive reported having nearly 10 times as much in his year-end campaign account - $6.2 million - as his nearest rival, state Auditor General Jack Wagner.
The $676,000 that Wagner reported in cash-on-hand confirmed impressions in Pennsylvania political circles that he was lagging in fund-raising behind Onorato, a fellow Pittsburgher.
Today marked the deadline for both state and federal candidates to file reports on their financial picture as of Dec. 31.
In the Pennsylvania battle for the U.S. Senate, the candidates got the jump on the deadline by releasing reports over the weekend.
Republican Pat Toomey, a former three-term congressman from Allentown, outraised Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) in the final three months of 2009 by more than a half-million dollars. Specter, though, still had three times more cash-on-hand, $8.66 million.
To face Toomey, Specter will have to turn back a Democratic primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak. Sestak saw his fund-raising pace slow during the fourth quarter, but he had $5.1 million on hand.
Congressional candidates are barred from receiving more than $2,300 in a primary from any individual. There are no limits on individual contributions in state races.
The Republican gubernatorial primary has been regarded as less competitive from the start. State Attorney General Tom Corbett reported holding $3.2 million. That dwarfed the $28,000 held by his foe, state Rep. Sam Rohrer.
Three of the four Democratic candidates had given hints in recent weeks of what they would report to Pennsylvania's Department of State. Only Wagner played his cards close to the vest.
His new report revealed that he raised $171,000 in the closing weeks of the year. He was reelected as auditor general in 2008.
Onorato was eager weeks ago to brag about his war chest and perhaps give second thoughts to some of his foes about staying in the contest against him.
He reporting putting $6.4 million into his account last year. That included the $3.7 million he said he raised during the year itself. It also included funds he had transferred from the account he has used in running for reelection as county executive in 2007.
Brian Herman, Onorato's campaign spokesman, said that, in the last three years, Onorato had raised $8.1 million in funds that ultimately have been applied to his gubernatorial campaign.
Montgomery County Commission Joe Hoeffel and Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, both Democrats, also had released a hint of their cash totals weeks ahead of the reporting deadline.
In his report today, Hoeffel said he had raised $347,000 and had $229,000 in the bank.
Doherty, who won reelection as mayor in November, bragged previously of his fund-raising prowess, saying he had raised $675,000 for the Scranton election.
But he reported raising only $444,000 for governor, and said he had only $94,500 in the bank 3 1/2 months before the May 18 primary.
Democratic state politics has been abuzz in recent days with talk that Doherty might opt not to run for governor but go after the job of lieutenant governor instead - perhaps forming a partnership with Onorato.
That talk was further fueled by news that Doherty's campaign manager had left in recent days to take a political job in Missouri.
But both campaigns deny any such move.
In the Seventh Congressional district, which is largely in Delaware County, Republican Patrick Meehan slightly outpaced his closest Democratic challenger, Bryan Lentz, according to financial reports for the last three months of 2009.
Meehan, a former U.S. attorney from Drexel Hill, raised nearly $580,000 and finished the year with almost $694,000 cash on hand. Meehan has spent just over $93,000 so far.
Lentz, a state representative from Swarthmore, raised about $295,000, finishing the year with about $460,000 cash on hand. Lentz has spent only about $55,000.
In the Sixth Congressional district, covering a large part of in Chester County, Republican Steve Welch finished the year with $653,000 cash on hand. A biotechnology entrepreneur from Charlestown Township, he loaned the campaign $500,000 earlier in the year, and donated another $150,000 in the final quarter.
Incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach, who reentered the race a few weeks ago after abandoning his bid for governor, reported about $5,300 cash on hand. But his campaign said last week it had $525,000 in fund-raising "commitments."
On the Democratic side, Doug Pike raised more than $456,000 in donations in the final months of the year, ending 2009 with more than $1.1 million cash on hand. Pike gave $962,000 to his campaign in 2009, $340,000 in the last three months alone. Pike, a former member of the Inquirer editorial board, lives in Tredyffrin Township. Democrat Manan Trivedi, a Reading doctor, reported raising nearly $103,000 in the final quarter of the year, finishing with over $123,000 cash.
In Bucks County's Eighth District, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy raised about $321,000 in the last three months, ending the year with almost $848,000 cash.
Republican Michael Fitzpatrick, a former congressman whom Murphy beat in 2006, announced late last month that he will run again. He reported no campaign finance information for 2009.
But today Fitzpatrick asked Murphy whether he would agree to cap spending at $1 million per campaign. The last time the two competed in 2006, the campaign's total cost $10.8 million.
Kate Hansen, a spokesman for Murphy, called Fitzpatrick's challenge a "gimmick."