CHARLOTTE - The blue-tinted plastic water bottles handed out as gifts at Tuesday's lunch honoring the women of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Democratic National Convention seemed to be hinting at something.
The bottles bore the name Allyson Schwartz, surrounded by stars. There was no mention of an office or an election year in the logo.
Schwartz, of course, is a member of the U.S. House, representing the 13th District in Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia, but persistent political buzz has her aiming to run statewide, for either governor in 2014 or U.S. Senate in 2016.
Was the bottle design a wink?
"No," Schwartz said Tuesday. "It's just a fun little giveaway."
Yet Schwartz's profile is on the rise, and some Democrats around the state are encouraging her to consider a run at higher office. She was in charge of recruiting candidates for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this election cycle, and insiders consider her a possibility to head the party's House campaign arm should she stay there - traditionally a fast track to party leadership.
"This really is about right now and building for the future for Pennsylvanians," Schwartz told reporters. "Right now we're of the moment, and we should be - and you know how engaged I am in this election. We're engaging people through house parties and knocking on doors to make sure we reelect President Obama" and help the entire Democratic ticket, she said.
In the House, Schwartz helped write some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and she used Tuesday's luncheon to defend the legislation and to denounce Republicans for vowing to repeal expanded health-care access for millions and, in her view, attacking women's rights.
"Do they really want to change the definition of rape?" she told the lunch group. "Do they really want to take away our right to contraception? Do they want to deny little kids coverage for health insurance? Yes. This is their platform. They've introduced legislation [in Congress], and they've voted for it. If that's not enough, they want to take away our Medicare - for those of us who have it and those of us who want it someday."
Later in the evening, Schwartz spoke from the podium about protecting Medicare.
She has run statewide before, seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose then-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in 2000. Then a state senator, she finished second, with 26 percent of the vote, in a field of five candidates. Four of those were from the eastern part of Pennsylvania, and the ultimate primary winner, then-U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, won with 41 percent of the vote by maintaining his hold on the 12-county Pittsburgh media market that made up his geographic base.
Klink opposed abortion rights. The party's major donors, many of whom were on the opposite side on that issue, did not warm to him, and Santorum rolled to reelection.
Since then, political people have often speculated about Schwartz whenever the Democrats are looking about for a candidate for the big statewide offices - U.S. Senate and governor.
"When there's something to know, you'll know it," Schwartz said Tuesday - a construction that implies there will be some kind of development.
As did the label on the bottles.