Could Katie McGinty, the only Democratic candidate for governor to refrain from going negative on frontrunner Tom Wolf, be poised to move up in the polls?
On Monday, McGinty announced the release of a new positive television commercial – a distinction worth noting, given the attack ads U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Treasurer Rob McCord have launched at Wolf, hoping to chip away at his lead.
Schwartz is running an ad blaming Wolf for layoffs at his family business, which was saddled with debt when he and his two cousins sold it in a leveraged buyout; several hundred employees lost their jobs. McCord has an explosive spot that derides Wolf for serving as the campaign chairman for a former York mayor who was arrested in the killing of a black woman during the city's 1969 riots.
Wolf has response ads up, with York Mayor Kim Bracey and several employees of his family kitchen cabinet business vouching for him, but he has not aired any negative spots.
Former Gov Ed Rendell (D) and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey demanded that McCord pull down the racially charged ad, calling it character assassination. Rendell praised McGinty for running an entirely positive campaign based on her own qualifications and plans.
Wolf is polling as many as 25 points ahead of Schwartz and McCord, with McGinty not far behind them. She could benefit if Wolf and one or both of his attackers sustain damage, a dynamic that sometimes happens in multi-candidate fields.
In her ad, McGinty relates her experience as a top environmental official in the Clinton White House and with the Rendell administration in Harrisburg, calls for tough ethics reforms in state government and says she will be a "problem solver" fighting for Pennsylvania families.
"Tired of big money and career politicians? Here's a problem solver: Katie McGinty. One of ten kids. Dad, a Philadelphia police officer. Mom a restaurant hostess. Became senior adviser to President Clinton. And created 3,000 new jobs as environment secretary for Rendell. As Governor, a total ban on gifts to Harrisburg politicians. Restore Corbett's education cuts. Support Obamacare. She'll take on Corbett to deliver for us. Katie McGinty for Governor."
McGinty's 30-second ad is airing statewide, including Philadelphia. It is the first time McGinty has advertised on broadcast TV in the state's largest media market.
McCord began challenging Wolf on his association with the mayor, Charlie Robertson, at a forum on education issues last Wednesday in Philadelphia. Within a couple of days, his campaign was airing the attack spot.
"I want to say one word about Katie McGinty, who when at the forum where this was raised was the only candidate who didn't pile on, was the only candidate who continued to talk just about education," Rendell said, in a news conference he called Saturday to respond to McCord. "She has run an underfunded but good campaign, talking about positive things. Katie McGinty deserves praise for doing so."
McGinty's campaign is hoping that Democratic voters will agree – and then reward her for not getting down into the mire.