Updated 3:56 p.m. | Democratic former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell will chair Katie McGinty’s Senate campaign, her team announced Monday.
“It is an honor to have Governor Rendell as the chair of my campaign. He knows how to win tough races and I appreciate his support and encouragement,” McGinty said in a statement emailed to reporters Monday morning.
McGinty was secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection in the Rendell administration, and he urged her to launch a bid for Senate.
“I am glad that Katie McGinty answered the calls from across Pennsylvania for her to enter the race for U.S. Senate,” Rendell said in a statement.
Having worked with her, Rendell thought McGinty “would be a senator that represents Pennsylvania well,” McGinty campaign manager Mike Mikus told CQ Roll Call on Monday. But “most importantly,” Mikus added, the former governor “thought [McGinty] would be the strongest candidate to run against Pat Toomey in the fall.”
McGinty, who entered the race earlier this month after stepping down as Gov. Tom Wolf’s chief of staff, is vying for the Democratic nomination against former Rep. Joe Sestak, who launched a rematch against Toomey in March. National Democrats have been dissatisfied with Sestak, who lost to Toomey by 2 points in 2010.
Landing Rendell as chairman, an unpaid campaign position, is a significant endorsement for a campaign that will need to raise money to win a competitive primary and then a general election race. Rendell served as governor from 2003 to 2011, and before that as Philadelphia mayor.
“Rendell carries a lot of weight both in Pennsylvania, and in particular in Philadelphia,” Mikus said. “And then also nationally from his role as DNC [Democratic National Convention] chair. Katie is a strong candidate, but any time you get validators in a campaign, the better.”
Since announcing her campaign, McGinty has secured the endorsements of EMILY’s List and the United Steelworkers.
Despite losing the backing of establishment Democrats like Rendell in 2010, Sestak defeated Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in the primary.
“If party leaders in Washington and the machine in Philadelphia want an establishment candidate, I’m not their guy. I’m for people, above party or type,” Sestak said in a statement Monday afternoon.
Less than two hours after McGinty’s campaign announced Rendell as chairman, America Rising PAC, a conservative group, blasted out a release saying, “History is repeating itself in Pennsylvania, as establishment Democrats are coalescing behind the fledgling campaign of Katie McGinty.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee was eager to paint the Rendell announcement as an escalation of the Keystone State’s “messy Democratic primary.”
“Establishment Democrats are making their second attempt to muscle Joe Sestak out of a Senate race, after failing to do so in 2010,” NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said in a Monday morning statement.
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