HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The top aide to Pennsylvania’s governor resigned Wednesday in preparation to run for U.S. Senate in 2016 in a state seen by Democrats as key to helping them regain the chamber’s majority.
A Democratic official in Washington told The Associated Press that Katie McGinty is preparing to run and spoke on condition of anonymity because McGinty had not made the announcement herself. It was not immediately clear how soon she planned to announce her campaign.
McGinty acknowledged through a political spokesman earlier this month that she was considering running, and senior Democrats in the state say she has been reaching out to seek their advice about a campaign. She also attended a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in Martha’s Vineyard.
A spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf said McGinty submitted her resignation Wednesday and he accepted. The spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, said McGinty did not give the governor a reason for resigning.
Leaving her Capitol office Wednesday evening, McGinty did not respond directly to questions about her upcoming Senate candidacy, saying only, “I’ll talk to you soon enough.”
National Democrats had been unhappy with the prospect of former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak seeking a rematch with incumbent Republican Pat Toomey in 2016 and were searching for months for an alternative. In recent weeks, they began courting McGinty.
McGinty, 52, has a lengthy resume and list of contacts after serving as a top environmental policy adviser to former Gov. Ed Rendell and President Bill Clinton. She also was being recruited by Emily’s List, a Democratic group backing female candidates who support abortion rights.
She ran for governor last year, her first bid for public office. But she finished a distant fourth place in the four-way Democratic primary behind Wolf. The primary is April 26, giving McGinty nine months to campaign against Sestak.
The 2016 Senate election in Pennsylvania promises to be expensive and closely watched, with control of the Senate on the line. Democrats are optimistic about a victory over Toomey in Pennsylvania, where Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a four-to-three margin.
Sestak, 63, is a former Navy vice admiral and two-term congressman from suburban Philadelphia. He built a reputation as a gritty, aggressive campaigner who has garnered good will from rank-and-file Democrats after becoming a regular on the local Democratic Party event circuit in recent years.
Toomey narrowly beat Sestak in the 2010 midterm election after Sestak thumped the longtime incumbent, Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter, in the primary.
Toomey, 53, is busily raising money and airing campaign ads in his bid for a second six-year term. The fiscally conservative former congressman, investment banker and restaurateur ran the free market, anti-tax group Club for Growth for several years before he ran for Senate.
Thus far, Toomey does not have a Republican primary challenger, and the party appears united behind him.
Associated Press reporters Erica Werner in Washington and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg contributed to this report.