HARRISBURG — When Laura Ellsworth stepped to the microphone Wednesday at a Press Club luncheon here, she said she hoped to talk about policies, economic development and compromise in more detail than she could at recent Republican gubernatorial debates.
In a race where her opponents — State Sen. Scott Wagner (R., York) and former healthcare consultant Paul Mango of Allegheny County — have drawn attention for their boisterous jabs at one another or at Democratic Gov. Wolf, Ellsworth has consciously decided to strike a different tone.
"I don't believe in it," she said Wednesday, noting that she thinks voters want "decency, candor [and] honesty" rather than "30-second attack ads."
And Ellsworth thinks that's one reason she'd have the best shot at winning the November general election, though even she acknowledges some don't agree with that assessment. Recent polls have shown Ellsworth trailing the other candidates but also suggest a large number of Republican voters are still undecided ahead of the May 15 primary.
Ellsworth, an attorney who lives in the Pittsburgh suburbs, said she believes Philadelphia — which came in 73rd out of 75 in one recent ranking of the economic health of major cities — has room to grow and develop. She cited Pittsburgh as an example of a city that transformed to become among the most "livable," according to some rankings. Asked about criticism by advocates who argue that gentrification has kept that growth from benefiting people equally, Ellsworth said she believes in programs that encourage developers to create a range of housing options that could work for people of differing income levels.
She said she thinks that if a woman were elected governor "all the #MeToo stuff that is going on in Harrisburg will stop." Afterward, she explained that the state's sexual harassment policies should be reviewed and updated, with one clear process for handling such allegations across state government. Currently, the processes vary.
But Ellsworth also said Wednesday that she doesn't want being a woman to be the deciding factor when people are mulling whether to support her.
"Absolutely no one should vote for me because I'm a woman any more than they should vote for those guys because they're guys," she said.